Like it is for so many, her cancer diagnosis was “devastating” to Nicole Helms.
“After a clear mammogram in January 2016, I visibly found a large lump in my right breast in July of that same year. I was diagnosed with triple positive Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer two weeks after my 45th birthday, “ she remembers.
A year of aggressive chemo and four surgeries followed. While in ICU after one of those surgeries, Nicole had a visit from Susan Little, the Oncology Breast Nurse Navigator at Eastside Medical Center. Susan brought a bag items to help Nicole with her recovery, items Nicole didn’t even know she’d need. Vaseline and lip balm for chemo dry lips, a bolster pillow made by the Gwinnett Quilters Guild, a pink fleece blanket and drain bags, a hands-free way for patients to carry and manage the drains that are in place for weeks after surgery.
“I was so incredibly touched and moved by that visit,” said Nicole. “It helped me so much — I wanted to be that someone for someone else.” And Pink It Forward was born.
With the help of her mother-in-law and other friends, Nicole started to make drain bags to give to other survivors. Nicole and her Pink It Forward crew have now made over 200 drain bags, giving them to Little at Eastside and taking them to Nicole’s oncologist and surgeon as well.
“Helping others is helping me recover,” says Nicole.
“Breast cancer is that sorority no one wants to be a part of – but once you’re in, you’re sisters for life,” she adds.
Even in the difficult days of cancer, says Nicole, there are positives. A “rock” of a husband named Barry, the love and support of daughter Makenna, the care of best friend Jamie, and family and friends too many to name.
“It opens your eyes to the good in people. It restores your faith in people,” she says.
Nicole is finished now with most of her cancer treatment, but has one more surgery to go. “I’m almost done physically, but there’s the mental journey, too. You’re in fight mode for so long. Now I need to get my mind right.”