Nicole Voss, breast cancer survivor and Metis Breast Care patient.
Dr. Cavins said she is a wonderful example of how you can rise above things that happen in your life and come out on the other side a better version of yourself.
At the young age of 34, Nicole had just had her second baby. While she was nursing, she noticed a rather large lump on her breast. She went to her doctor and it was written off as a duct ectasia of the breast. She was scheduled to return for a visit in three months. Her follow-up visit proved inadequate to her and provided no real resolution.
“My husband Jordan began working in the OR at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital just before all this started and he would tell me how awesome Dr. Cavins was,” she explained. “After that second visit, I called him and said I wanted to see her.”
On October 3, 2016 her world was forever changed. She was diagnosed with Stage III HER2-positive breast cancer.
“I came out to this very parking lot and called my dad and told him I had cancer,” she said. “When you hear those words, ‘you have cancer,’ it’s pretty surreal. This is something that happens to someone else. Things moved very quickly after that. I was sent to Sandy Schilli in oncology and was prepared for a port for chemo within a couple of hours. At this point I had a choice. I could stomp my feet and throw a fit, or I could stand up and get ready for the fight of my life.”
Nicole went on to describe her progression of emotions that occurred just as Dr. Cavins said they would.
“There’s grief and sadness,” she said. “You miss things like getting up in the morning and feeling good. Then there was anger. I remember yelling at Jordan and saying I wasn’t mad at him and I wasn’t mad at God, but I was really mad that we had to go through this. Then I hit a pivotal point and hit acceptance. You really do have to go through all of those emotions.”
Nicole said one of the most important things when facing a disease of any kind, is to find a good support system.
“You have to find support from your family, from your friends, and most of all you have to find support from people who have walked the walk,” she said. “I needed to talk to people who understood how I felt and tell me I wasn’t crazy. That it was normal to feel this way.”
Another memorable point for Nicole was the loss of her hair. With courage in hand, she went to Applebee’s by herself wearing the tell-tale hat that cancer patients sometime wear.
“I felt people looking at me and it was very uncomfortable, but I thought if I can do that, I can do anything,” she said.
Not long after, Nicole decided to shave what hair she had left. She gathered her family, and made it a festive event. Thereafter, she tried to keep things as light as possible.
“You have to find humor in the journey to get through it because it’s a hard journey,” she said.
Now at age 37, Nicole has been through eight rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, 34 rounds of radiation, and a terrible infection that left her without an implant on one side.
“Right now, I go back and forth and debate whether I’m going to have surgery and fix things, or am I just going to accept my scars, be who I am and remember that’s how I survived,” she said. “But we have a choice. We can let the situation define us or we can rise above it. We can help other people get through their journey and do what we can to make a difference.”