People's Stories!

What’s Your Story? Meet Nicola!

In August 2017 Nicola had a CT scan with a virtual colonoscopy. She had been having symptoms of IBS for about a year prior to this and was finally referred for her colonoscopy. Working as a Property Manager for a large commercial landlord in Birmingham which was stressful with lots of pressure. Nicola was also training hard and running half marathons and was what you would described as “pretty fit!”

The bowel prep is the worst thing she had ever had to endure. It wasn’t surprising that the afternoon after the scan Nicola was called by who is now her consultant, to come in for a chat. The chat was to inform her that she had stage 4 bowel cancer and liver mets. The pain experienced from a total blockage in her large bowel that had distended to near breaking point. Nicola was then told she would have to have a colostomy the next day but she refused and subsequently went on to have a stent and a full colonic irrigation a few days later.

For a while things were stable but then the stent failed and had to be flushed out again. In that December Nicola had a bowel perforation and sepsis from this in the large bowel and was told she had 24 hours to live again she refused the colostomy and was sent to the hospice to die and walked out 9 days later! Fast forward to February and the stent failed again and she had another one installed but it only lasted a day. Finally after “a lot of soul searching” Nicola then decided to go for the colostomy! The operation was not without its difficulty but she now has Berly the stoma- her “magic button”.

“I have not looked back since then! The surgery and recovery was very hard at first but then as the days went by, I got more and more confident and started to get my life back. I still have days that are hard but it’s all part of having a stoma and cancer.”

Nicola’s boss was amazing and so good about her job and let her work part time hours and to work from home, but they agreed last August that it was time to hang up her executive hat for now. So Nicola now works part time for cancer research in their Solihull shop! She is also the chairman of the Business Improvement district in Birmingham, which keeps her occupied and something to focus her time on. Cancer has taught her so much including what is actually important to her and how to see positives out of what should be a negative! She also tries to share out kindness to those who might not be as lucky as she has been.

Nicola (50) lives at home with her husband, three rescue cats; Joey, Nala and Simba and her Jack Russell Skyler. Nicola and her husband will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in March of this year and Nicola has said that despite having terminal cancer and hospital trips and surgery, it has made the marriage even stronger than ever! During Nicola’s recovery, she received great support online from new friends in the Ostomy Community.

On the bad days, Nicola will colour in her colouring in book whilst watching Netflix (who doesn’t love a good bit of Netflix?!) whilst using her lovely heat pad. On the good days, Nicola spends her time making the best of every single good day, staying positive and remaining as normal as she can be. I asked Nicola what she plans for the future in which she says “It is hard to plan a future with a diagnosis of terminal cancer however us cancer sufferers set ourselves small targets in which we want to achieve. My small target is going on holiday later this year with my husband for a little while. I also want to reach out and help other people who are chronically ill and don’t have the correct or no support. Most importantly, I want to live my life each day!”

“This is a photo of me saying my goodbyes to my family and friends and my little dog in the Marie Curie Hospice in December 2017. A miracle can happen and it’s not your time till it’s your time. So keeping on even when it hurts and thinking you can’t do it anymore.. you really can!”

 

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In this picture Nicola models with the I Am Denim London ostomy jeans! To view the blog about them please click here.

I met Nicola at the Purple Wings day conference back in August 2018 and we have spoken ever since. Since then I have come to see just how strong and brave Nicola is!

If you or a family member are affected by cancer and need support please talk to a Marie Curie nurse via the helpline or you can follow Nicola on Instagram @berylandme.

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