Stories of triumph in the midst of continuous hardship reminds us that there is light to be found in darkness. The beauty of making space for authentic stories is reconnecting with old colleagues, and given them a venue to share vulnerable and honest narratives.
This month, I had a chance to interview Nicole Bracy. Nicole is a Social Media Account Director, activist and three-time cancer survivor. Nicole shares her experience living her life beyond her diagnosis, and how she maintains self care and hope in a time of uncertainty.
When did you first learn about your cancer diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with mucosal melanoma in the roof of my mouth almost six years ago.
I was actually at the dentist getting a standard cleaning and he noticed the tumor. He wasn’t sure what it was so I had to get it biopsied and found out that it was in fact cancer.
What were your initial thoughts after getting that diagnosis?
I had been diagnosed with cancer two times before that (once at age 6—Wilm’s Tumor in my kidney, and again at age 8—the cancer had spread to my liver and lungs). So honestly, my initial thoughts after getting my most recent diagnosis was, “… really? Again?”
How has your cancer diagnosis impacted your life?
Unfortunately, beating cancer has not been the end of my cancer journey. Physically, I’ve almost never felt fully healthy a day in my life. I’ve also had long-term health issues as a result of having cancer. For example, when I got cancer in my kidney, I had to have one of my kidneys removed. So I’ve been living for the last 25 years with one kidney and recently found out that that kidney is now failing. So my life has been an ongoing series of health problems.
But I think my latest diagnosis has made me feel that I am meant to be here and I’m meant to do something great in this world. To have beaten cancer three times can’t be a coincidence or an accident. God wants me here for some reason. He feels I have a story to tell or an impact to leave and I am excited to do just that.
How has your family/fiance supported your ongoing battle with cancer?
They attended doctors appointments, came with me to the hospital for procedures and supported me emotionally when I was feeling down or stressed about my diagnosis.
What has this diagnosis taught you?
Life is short! Make the most of it. Drink water. Exercise. Keep positive people around. Leave your shitty job. Stay away from unnecessary drama. Help people. Give back to those less fortunate. Do what you need to do to keep yourself happy.
Are you currently in remission?
Yes. I celebrated five years cancer-free in 2020!
How have you been practicing self care regarding this medical diagnosis?
I go to the doctor regularly, I check my body regularly for anything abnormal and if I see something I say something. A lot of people don’t realize that cancer is malignant. It can only grow. It can only get worse. It doesn’t just go away on its own. People see a lump or a strange discoloration and out of fear they ignore it rather than getting it looked at—but the earlier you look into something that might be cancerous, the better the prognosis will be.
Don’t let something grow from the size of a penny to the size of a tennis ball before you decide to do something about it. Handle it while it’s still the size of a penny and it will likely have much less of an impact on your life.
How can people educate themselves more regarding this medical diagnosis?
I recommend learning about cancer through actual oncologists and cancer patients. Don’t WebMD your symptoms. Talk to a doctor to get factual information and a proper diagnosis and if you have cancer, talk to other patients to find out how they handled it physically and emotionally. The cancer community is very supportive.
What does sharing your story mean to you?
I don’t talk about having cancer a lot because cancer does not define me. It’s just something that has happened to me. But when people ask about it, I hope that I am telling a story of resilience and survival. I hope that sharing my story makes people less afraid of cancer and feel more empowered that by taking the right steps they, too, can beat it.
Instagram & Clubhouse: @nikbracy