- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

EVERETT, Pa. (AP) - In 2002, Nicole Abbott’s world changed forever.

Once a world of multicolored layers, the Everett woman’s surroundings took on a pink hue.

“At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a tennis ball in my right breast,” she said.

After an aspiration and surgery, she discovered that it was cancerous.

“My first thought was of my 10-year-old daughter, Sha’land,” Abbott said.

“All I could think about was, what would she do without her mother?”

Abbott had only one question for her doctor: “Is this my death sentence?”

She hadn’t even finished the question when the doctor and his nurse simultaneously said, “No.”

She asked the doctor what she had to do beat the cancer because she had a daughter to raise.

Abbott fought because she longed to buy her daughter that first prom gown and see her first boyfriend. She also wanted to see Sha’land graduate from high school and go on to college.

“I just wasn’t done,” Abbott said.

To save her life, another surgery was necessary to extract lymph nodes.

“The next day, I found myself lying in a hospital having bone scans, CT scans and many other tests,” she said.

Following her lymph node surgery and a three-day hospital stay, the doctor gave Abbott the wonderful news that the lymph nodes had all come back clear. This meant there was a good chance that the cancer had not spread to any other organs.

After a few weeks of healing, she went to her oncologist to find out how much treatment was in her future.

“I would go four times for chemo and the medicine would make me sick,” she said. “I would lose my hair and all the other stuff that goes with chemotherapy.”

A regimen of radiation continued for six additional weeks.

“In the following months, there were many sleepless nights and days filled with sickness,” Abbott said.

What she remembers is vague due to the treatment, which made her sick with vomiting, body aches and mouth sores.

“At the time, I thought this was a dark cloud that had been cast on not just my life but the life of my daughter, husband, family members and friends,” Abbott said.

Her dark cloud turned pink as her husband, Patrick, held her hand and head.

And she found solace when her husband assured her that he didn’t care if she had no hair or uneven breasts.

Comfort also came from her parents being with her every step of the way.

“They took care of my daughter, helped with the housework and took me to appointments when my husband had to work,” Abbott said.

She is thankful for her sister, who threatened to drag her to her last chemo treatment when Abbott told her: “I’m so sick, I don’t think I’m going to the last one.”

She also is grateful to other family members and co-workers who were in her corner through the ordeal.

Abbott is indebted to the health care professionals who had the knowledge to save her, a church family and many others who prayed for her daily.

“Most of all, I’m thankful to the Lord, who heard those prayers and answered them,” she said. “Every time I looked at my daughter, it gave me the strength, hope and courage to fight another day.

The cancer has left her with several side effects.

Following chemo treatments, she discovered that her thinking process wasn’t as sharp. She had to concentrate to do basic things such as reading a book or listening to someone talk.

In 2003, she was told she had lymphedema, a condition many people develop after lymph nodes have been removed.

“The fluid in my arm accumulates and has no way of traveling out of the arm,” she said. “After many hours of massage therapy, this side effect is under control.”

She has to wear a compression sleeve on her arm for the rest of her life. Abbott considers it a small price to pay knowing she is cancer free.

Undeniably, breast cancer changed her life forever.

“The treatment is every horror story you have ever heard,” Abbott said. “You get sick. Your hair falls out. You’re so tired you can’t lift your head off the pillow. It’s a scary thing, but you can never give up and let this disease win.”

Her therapy through the ordeal has been fundraising with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Relay for Life.

She has been fundraising for two years and last year was co-chairwoman of Bedford Making Strides.

Abbott is a 12-year breast cancer survivor and proud member of the “Pink” club.

“I can’t tell you how many times in the last 12 years I spoke at events or just simply answered my home phone to find another woman on the other end who had just heard those three words: ‘You have cancer,’ ” Abbott said.

“I’ve listened, answered their questions honestly and cried right along with them - because I’ve been there, and you never forget.”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1vx4pst

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Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, https://www.tribune-democrat.com

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