Nicolle D. Surratte
“pushed in,” or inverted, nipple of my right breast that greeted me in the mirror the month before was breast cancer. The diagnosis didn’t make any sense. In addition to not having any family history of breast cancer, I had been doing the things recommended to live a healthy life. Ever since high school, I exercised regularly, ate healthy, never
smoked and never drank. Cancer?
Numbness took over as I left the office and drove home. When I walked through the door, the silence was so loud – cancer. The waterfall of tears didn’t stop until God got my attention. He took me back to 2001 when the “wuz-band” left. God reminded me that during all of the years that I spent on Separated Street and Divorce Drive, He supplied everything that my children and I needed. I thought, “Yeah, that’s right. And since He did all of that and more, He can handle a cancer
diagnosis.” At this point, my goal became living – by any means necessary.
Although I resided in Delaware, I placed my medical care in the hands of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia, PA.
With a Stage 0-1 diagnosis, I was an ideal candidate for IntraOperative Radiation Therapy (IORT). This involved surgery to remove the tumor,
radiation while on the table and that’s it – no additional radiation and NO chemotherapy. Immediately I said to myself, “This is great because I don’t have time for cancer!”
That procedure on July 25 was supposed to be simple. But, surgery revealed that the cancer spread beyond what the test results indicated. It was now Stage 3C. This aggressive cancer would require aggressive treatment with chemotherapy to begin August 25. As I waited for that first six-plus hour chemo treatment, I received a call from the nursing home in which my mother resided on the Alzheimer’s unit. As her caregiver, my permission was needed to process the paperwork for hospice care.
On September 13, after visiting mom, I received the call that she passed. How was I to keep it together? I was a 45-year-old single mom of two college students who worked full-time while undergoing chemo. Chemo made me too weak to vacuum, clean or prepare meals, and now I had a funeral to plan. Since my family resided in the DC area, it was just me. Well, me and my Superwoman complex. I needed help, but was too proud to ask. Cancer wasn’t my kryptonite – pride was.
Chemo treatments were delayed due to low white blood cell counts and were suspended altogether in December. I had successful lumpectomy #2 on January 2012. The 5 1⁄2 weeks of daily radiation treatments that began in March were interrupted due to a skin “breakdown.” When chemo resumed, the low white blood cell count
issue did too. My final chemo treatment was January 3, 2013. I got married 20 days later on January 23 (I had to pick a number he could remember. It doesn’t get much easier than 1-2-3!)
On June 22, 2021 I’ll celebrate my 10th “cancerversary” as a breast cancer “thriver.” Over the years, cancer managed to do a lot of things. Lymphedema. Five years of Tamoxifen. My long hair? Gone. Taste buds? Shot. Immune system? Weakened. However, Romans 8:28 reminds me that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” My purpose is His purpose. Nothing – that is NO-THING, can kill my purpose. Not
divorce. Not cancer. Not death. Not unemployment. Nothing means nothing, the same way all things means all things. Cancer is part of my “all things.” Cancer is part of my purpose.
Through my company, NspireD, I now serve as an inspirational speaker and patient advocate promoting health and wellness with an emphasis on stress management and lifestyle changes. I don’t want a diagnosis to be the wake up call that forces women to pay more attention to their health and wellness practices. In addition to my role as an ambassador for CTCA, I work with local cancer hospitals and support groups. I also created and host two annual events in Delaware. The Cocktails & Comedy Show Cancer Fundraiser benefits the KALEIDOSCOPE events for women living with all types of cancer.
I’m grateful that I don’t look like what I’ve been through. Forget about the period, the comma or the question mark. I’m living life with an exclamation
point! Cancer didn’t happen TO me. It happened FOR me. The story about how my test became a testimony is written in my award winning memoir,
The Voice of Victory in the Valley: Diary of a Breast Cancer Thriver (www.NicolleInspires.com). Know that regardless of the challenges before you, you too
can triumph over trauma, transform pain into purpose and become better instead of bitter. The fight that you are in is worth fighting. “Faith In God Helps you Through” so F.I.G.H.T. for YOUR victory!
To my Bosom Buddies, the ladies with whom I am forever Linked in Pink, perhaps this phrase that I coined will also help you keep things in perspective: “Every day is a good day…some are just better than others.” Get up each day and lace up your pink boxing gloves. Be NspireD!