Nicole Marie McKinnon

Nicole McKinnon

Age: 24

Hometown: Corner Brook, Newfoundland

What was your diagnosis?

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

What school do you attend?

I am currently a business student at the college of the North Atlantic

What is your career goal?

When I graduate from the College of the North Atlantic I want to become an entrepreneur. I would like to build my own business because of the challenges it offers and to express my skills, talents, passions and creativity. I have a strong drive to succeed.

What is/was your occupation?

Student of the College of the North Atlantic

 

Your cancer experience:

How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?

I was pregnant with my son when I became sick. My body was going through things that differ from a “normal” pregnancy. After having my son in November 2008, I was still feeling the symptoms to those I was feeling during my pregnancy. I was hospitalized because of the severity of my skin and then did I find out it was cancer.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

It was in February of 2009, just a month after I turned 20.

In which hospital(s) are/were you treated?

I was treated first in the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s and Western Memorial Regional Hospital.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis? 

I was accepted for college but was unable to go. The highest level of education I had at the time was Grade 12.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

My very first thought when diagnosed was my son Brayden: What is he going to do without me? He’s a newborn and he needs his mother. I right away had a reason to fight. My son was the strength to get through whatever was coming my way.

How did your family react?

My family was devastated, but they pulled together like real heroes and stood by my side every step of the way. I had an amazing support system within my family alone.

How did your friends react? Were you treated differently, or did things remain the same?

This question is hard to answer. I can classify my friends into groups; I have casual friends; those who are classmates, or acquaintances. I also have good friends; those who I spent time with and we share things in common. And most importantly I have close friends; those who hold a place in my heart and I consider a part of my family.

When I was diagnosed, my close friends were the only ones I would open up to, the only ones that I felt wouldn’t treat me differently.

However, on the outside of the hospital walls I was living in, my friends of all kinds, old friends, new friends, friends I haven’t seen in years and ones I had forgotten about had all in one way shape of form been a part of my battle, through letters, donations, putting off fundraisers and praying for me. The only person in my life that treated me different was me.

What did your treatment consist of?

I had 22 rounds of chemotherapy, two full days of high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. I was mostly an in-patient. There were a couple months here and there I was able to be home with my son and have my treatment as an out-patient.

What is your current medical status?

I have been cancer free two years, four months, and 29 days as of today, October 16, 2012, and am feeling great!

How is life different for you now post diagnosis?

My life changed a lot after cancer, I have a different outlook on life now and I enjoy each and every minute I am able to be here with my son.

I didn’t think about my health very much before cancer, but now I appreciate my health so much more and do whatever I can to keep myself well. I love life, love my family and friends just a little more each and every day; I savor every moment of each day.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part of my challenge had nothing to do with fighting the cancer. I felt like I was standing on the sidelines watching life go on without me. I missed out on raising my son the first two years of his life. I also missed out on school and valuable time I could have spent with my family and friends. These things were really tough for me.

What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?

I took away many lessons from a challenge such as this. My illness and recovery blessed me with the understanding that life is to be savored each and every day; that slowing down, not sweating the small stuff, finding time to laugh, and ultimately seeing the good in all things benefits not only our own lives, but the lives of those we know and love.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?

My main source of motivation came from my son. No matter how tough things got, he was always the first thing on my mind. I knew that he needed me and he loved me; that alone was enough to fight for.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

I never really thought about cancer before it happened to me. Now I realize that cancer can happen to anyone, and I feel blessed that I was able to fight my battle with every bit of strength I had in me and I won. My illness has shown me how strong I really am. I feel like I am able to face the world with any challenge it brings my way.

What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?

I’m not sure if there are any preventative measures that people can tale to lower their risk of having an experience like mine. However, I know that we should always take care of our health. We only have one body to live in so we should treat it in the best way possible.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

No I did not attend any support groups during my challenge.

If you did not attend a support group, why?

I didn’t attend a support group when I was sick because I really isolated myself from others. I was afraid people would judge me. There were support groups available for me to attend but I chose not to. Knowing now how much they have helped me after cancer, If I faced a challenge such as this again I would most definitely take the opportunity to attend as many as possible.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?

I found out about YACC from a friend of the family, she is actively involved in the Canadian Cancer Society and told me about Young Adult Cancer Canada.