North Carolina native Nicole Armstrong was only 42 when doctors diagnosed her with stage IV colon cancer. Now, after a recurrence last year, Nicole is an advocate who shines her light by letting others know they can still live their lives to the fullest after a stage IV diagnosis. Learn more about her story and what she wants you to know this Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
How were you diagnosed with colon cancer?
On August 23, 2015, I went to the ER for side stomach pain. After a series of tests, doctors found a tumor and I had to have surgery. I came out of surgery and was told I had a full hysterectomy because I had stage IV colorectal cancer that had metastasized to my ovaries. I started chemo and cancer transition classes.
In June, my son and I were at the park when I received a call from my oncologist saying, “it’s back.” I started treatment again in July 2016: six weeks of radiation and I’m currently on chemo. So I’m on the journey again, but I feel confident that whatever comes up, my oncology team has a plan.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
The Three F’s: faith, family and friends. I have faith and that keeps me going. I never asked, “why me?”—I just know I’m on the journey. I’m not mad; I’m thankful I can let my light shine.
I also have a great support system: a host of family and friends. In 2016, I met new friends thanks to the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation (FYBLF), which is a local foundation in North Carolina that fulfills wishes for adult cancer patients. Last October, my friends from FYBL granted me and my family our wish to travel to Atlanta, GA for a “history tour”—an all expenses paid week of not thinking about colon cancer. I also meet new friends whenever I go to the chemo floor at the hospital.
This March, what’s one thing you want the world to know about colon cancer?
Get educated and get screened! The numbers are changing—this isn’t a 50 and up thing anymore. In fact, I’m under 45. Don’t let financial situations get in your way of getting screened; there are programs to help you get a colonoscopy. Know your body and your bowels.
What advice would you share with someone who's just been diagnosed?
Colon cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Live day by day, enjoy life and surround yourself with an awesome support system. Some days I find myself sitting in the park, walking or visiting friends. Do what makes you happy and live life.
Learn more about Colon Cancer Awareness Month at coloncancermonth.org! Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.