July 30th was ‘International Friendship Day’, and Nicole, Emily, and Lilly are part of a trio of friends who have always supported each other in both good and challenging times. A friendship that started in elementary and middle school blossomed into adulthood. “We all became close friends as youngsters and the rest is history! We have come a long way from middle school to adults, and we now love to have our movie and wine nights out together.”
In the summer of 2019, Nicole was 26 and had a granulosa cell mass removed – the friendship between the trio strengthened even more as they rallied around her. Prior to her surgery, she had been healthy; and her medical team felt strongly that the cancer cells had been removed. Months later she began experiencing severe pain, thinking her appendix was about to burst, only to discover cancer had returned and there were now several masses. Nicole’s friends jumped into action immediately and wanted to do all they could for her. They routinely supported her through her treatments to lessen the stress as much as possible. “Nicole is our best friend and has the best sense of humor. She has done an amazing job staying positive through the cancer journey – her attitude is “I refuse” and does her best to not feel “down” or allow negativity to cloud her thoughts. We all got hats made that say “I refuse” and over 60 friends and family wore them.” The friends still wanted to do more – and they decided to run the Chicago Half Marathon as a way to honor Nicole to raise awareness and raise much-needed funds for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition through NOCC Team TEAL. Emily, an avid runner, signed up on the spot, recruited Lilly and Taylor another friend of the group. “Taylor has never run a half marathon, but there was no question; we were going to do this for her. Running gives me a sense of doing something bigger than myself. Running not only for my dear friend but also helping others impacted by the disease. We love and care about Nicole very much and want to do whatever we can during this tough time. We all just wanted to let Nicole know that we’re there for her and willing to do whatever it takes to help her through this. I told her I was running the week she started chemotherapy and she was so thankful. Running for NOCC Team TEAL is important because no one should have to go through ovarian cancer or see one of their friends or family going through it. We know what it’s like now and have become part of a community focused on finding a way to improve treatment or earlier diagnosis for women”
The friends agree that joining NOCC Team TEAL makes it easier to push through the training involved to prepare to run a 13.1-mile race. “It definitely gives us a sense of purpose to get through the tough training sessions; we think of the hard times that Nicole and other people with cancer have to go through and that helps us not stop, knowing that we are running for them. If Nicole can endure a chemotherapy session and the side effects, we can certainly endure a tough run. We also have our favorite songs on our playlist that remind us of her, and that is a great pick me up for our longer training sessions.”
The friends hope that being part of the NOCC family will help continue to bring more awareness to ovarian cancer. “The fact that many people are diagnosed at later stages since there isn’t an early reliable screening tool is what we want to see change. I hope that our effort will be part of the support that leads to a test that results in more positive outcomes. Anything we can do, we will do to help not only our friend but others that might be diagnosed in the future!”
So far, living through a pandemic and two rounds of chemo, Nicole has been tackling cancer like a champ! She just finished her Master’s Degree and passed her national counseling exam. She is now a licensed professional counselor! Nicole’s friends look forward to being together and just enjoying each other’s company for years to come, and know that Nicole will be cheering them on at the finish line at the 2021 Chicago Half Marathon!