Going into 2013, Nicolle Blacketer knew this year would be a turning point.
She had been accepted into the pre-med program at Florida State. She planned to move from her home in mid-Missouri and begin classes this summer.
But her life suddenly pivoted in another direction after a call from her doctor in early February.
“Cancer happened,” she said.
She had gone to see her doctor for what she thought was a hemorrhoid — a little blood in her stool and minor constipation prompted the visit.
But her doctor was immediately concerned. Further testing confirmed the worst. Nicolle had stage-4 colorectal cancer. It had already spread to her liver and lungs.
The news was an absolute shock.
“It’s almost not real. It’s like, am I really that sick?” Nicolle said. “I kept saying, ‘I’m only 33. This happens to people 50 and over.’”
Nicolle soon began the first of six rounds of chemo intended to push back the cancer. She will have surgery later this year.
The aftereffects of chemo felt “like getting hit by a semi truck,” Nicolle said.
Her family and friends rallied beside her during these difficult times. Her family held a bake sale that raised $900 for Nicolle. Staff members at Boone Hospital Center, where Nicolle works as a staffing coordinator, made t-shirts in recognition of Nicolle’s cancer fight.
“It’s almost overwhelming how nice and kind people are,” she said.
In May, Nicolle received some good news. Scans showed the chemo was working. It was a welcome victory during a year that’s been far different than she expected.
One thing Nicolle has not lost sight of is her goal of receiving an advanced degree in a health profession. While she wasn’t able to start her pre-med program, she is currently pursuing her masters in psychology.
But first on her agenda is working with her doctors and caregivers to defeat her cancer.
“It’s a struggle and it’s a fight, but I’m more than willing to fight,” Nicolle said. “I’m ready to go, I’m not giving up.”
She encourages everyone to follow the recommended cancer screenings and, if a concern arises, have it checked out.
“Even if you have those little symptoms, you need to get it checked out,” she said. “I almost didn’t get it checked out. What if I hadn’t?”