This profile is currently the only profile written by the fighter themselves!
Throughout my brief story; I cannot get technical or tell you specifics about my procedure; but what I can share is what my doctors told me when I was growing up, my struggles, my victories and my reality.
My name is Nicole Reyes, I am 29 years old and I am a Stage II Neuroblastoma survivor.
My cancer was discovered when I was 2.5 by Dr. Flory of Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, IA.
Dr. Flory is an angel in a white coat. Let me explain – my cancer would not have been found if it were for his precautionary attempt to see if I had been sexually abused by a babysitter. All of my tests turned up negative, but he wanted to take one extra precaution and get an x-ray – just to be on the safe side. Because of that ONE extra test, I am able to stand here today and tell you my story of survival.
I was 2.5 when my stage II tumor was discovered and I quickly became a short-term resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
I had surgery to remove the tumor and radiation treatment to get the rest of the tumor that they couldn’t remove.
My first memory in life came from the hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic. I remember lying in the bed wearing my Rainbow Bright pajamas. Nurses came in all the time, but this visit in particular was different. They came in with (what I remember to be) paint. They wouldn’t let me take off my favorite pajamas; they told me they needed to cut them. Despite my tears, the nurse pulled out the scissors and cut my pajama sleeve all the way up and painted my arm half yellow and half red. I was so disheveled from the cutting my pajamas I don’t remember the rest, but I do remember another time - being hooked up to IVs and jumping out of bed to use the rest room and the bag fell over on my dad – when you’re 2, that’s pretty funny. I also remember my parents walking me up and down the hallways, pushing my IV bag behind me to get out of the hospital room for awhile.
I graduated from the Mayo Clinic at 17. My whole life, I loved going for my annual check-ups. My mom and dad always made it really special for me – McDonalds, a loaf of bread to feed the geese, seeing the naked man hanging n the building, stickers after they drew blood, and the pure joy in the car after a long day of doctor’s giving me a clean bill of health. The pre-visit urine samples that we had to send in were the only difficult thing for me because I couldn’t eat chocolate or bananas for the week.
Here’s the deal: My case was 25.5 years ago. 25.5 years ago there wasn’t a lot of information about Neuroblastoma leading to a lifetime of some guesses, assumptions and realities. Here are some of the things the doctors told me:
Post surgery my eyes would be droopy, I would have visible scars, I would have a frail back, I would have stunted growth, I would have limited flexibility, I would not be able to carry children without open heart surgery, I would have abnormal development and several other things.
So what is the reality?
The reality is; I have scars that people can see. They go from under my left breast to my back. Was I teased? Sure. How did I take the teasing? I didn’t care; I was a cancer survivor no one could say anything to take that away from me. However, more people asked out of curiosity where the scars came from than teased me for having them. But it didn’t matter, I was proud to tell my story. When I was a teenager, I became a little self conscious about my physical development because of where the incision was, but it wasn’t anything that held me back.
As the doctor’s warned, as an adult, my back is a little weak and I often have back pain. I have a difficult time sitting and standing up straight, which I wish I could fix. But it’s been happening for so long that I have learned to tolerate it.
I played a lot of sports in high school. My freshman year in high school I was playing JV and Varsity basketball; practicing around 4 hours after school. At one point during the season, I started getting really sick, faint, dizzy and exhausted after a long practice or game. I went to the doctor’s office and they discovered that two holes had formed in my heart. Doctor’s are under the assumption that the holes were caused by the radiation, and because of that they concluded that my bodies’ ability to carry children without open heart surgery post-delivery would be impossible. Although I am a proud cancer survivor, this was a little sad that this was possibly an effect of my survival.
As I have grown, I have learned to appreciate everything that I went through…everything that my parent’s went through. I love my life and feel very fortunate and blessed to be here. If it weren’t for God, my skilled doctor’s, my parents and friend and stranger’s prayers, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to stand here today. I am happy to say that I have not had open heart surgery when I delivered my baby girl in 2006.