Nicole White was only 23 years old when she got the life-changing news of a breast cancer diagnosis.
It was 2007, and as a young single mother of two at the time, Nicole was working at an OBGYN clinic in Texas. Even though women’s health was a big part of her daily routine, she wasn’t well versed in breast health.
She was taking a shower one day when she felt a lump on her breast. She spoke with a nurse practitioner friend at the clinic about it, who suggested it might just be built-up tissue after she recently gave birth. They went forward with a biopsy anyway, which came back positive for breast cancer.
Nicole remembers not fully registering the news when the doctor sat down with her to discuss the results. “I don’t think I actually reacted until I got in my car by myself,” she says. “But I did everything they told me to do. I was 23 years old — I didn’t know anything about breast cancer.”
Her treatment plan was aggressive, considering her stronger health as a young patient, and included heavy doses of chemotherapy as well as radiation.
After two years of treatment, she went into remission and gets a mammogram every year to ensure that she continues to be cancer free.
Seventeen years later, Nicole now works as a medical assistant with Our Lady of the Lake Health in the office of family medicine physician Michael Bodin, MD. She’s much loved by the team at Dr. Bodin’s office and is known for being great with her patients. That’s especially true for her elderly patients, who she spends extra time with to make sure they feel heard and that their care plan is clearly explained to them.
Nicole still gets emotional talking about her cancer journey and what she went through at such a young age.
“I didn’t have anyone in my corner at the time. It was kind of hard,” she says. “But it was just about staying positive and moving forward. My kids gave me a lot of strength.”
And she shares that strength today with other women who are going through their own breast cancer battle.
Nicole says it’s important for women to talk about their experiences together as a way to support each other.
“If you don’t talk about it, you’ll never get over it,” she says. “You can be an advocate for someone who is going through it and maybe doesn’t know how to handle the situation. I talk about it often just to reassure myself, too.”
For Nicole, even though her cancer experience was many years ago, it still feels embedded in her short-term memory, she says. “It’s something that sticks with you and you think about for the rest of your life.”
Nicole is being honored as one of Our Lady of the Lake’s Geaux Heroes, which recognizes incredible stories of strength and resilience. She will be recognized at the LSU Women’s Basketball game on February 11.