I am a breast cancer survivor. When I was first diagnosed, I was terrified. As a former oncology nurse, I was focused on complications, side effects, and long term effects of treatment. My youngest daughter was getting ready to move out in a few months. As a single mom, I had no idea how I would manage on my own. Plus I was self-employed. How would I keep working? How would I pay for everything? There were moments when I just wanted to give up.
I realized that I was going to have to walk my talk. As a confidence coach for kids, I have worked with hundreds of children to boost their confidence, help them become more resilient and develop a powerful mindset. I knew I needed the same strategies in order to walk through my cancer journey. With the help of a friend, we created a cancer care plan for me.
My cancer care plan made a huge difference. I felt more relaxed. I developed many different ways to manage side effects from chemo and radiation. I was able to keep my spirits up and navigate through treatment with grace.
Did you know that Nola is a professionally-trained, award-winning public speaker?Find Out About Nola's Speaking Experience
MY JOURNEY WITH CANCER AND MY CONSCIOUS CARE PLAN
As I stepped into the treatments, I knew that the Oncologists would treat my physical body but that I had to treat my mind and spirit. As I nurse, I understood how stress (including fear) triggers the fight or flight response (acute stress response). The nervous system is tightly linked with the immune system. Long-term stress can increase inflammation and decrease lymphocytes (white blood cells) which impairs your bodies ability to resist infections and be more susceptible to cancer. I realized I needed to stay calm and relaxed as much as possible to assist my body while I went through treatment. The following shows some of the things I did.
Diagnosed October 2018
On October 4th, my family doctor told me that the biopsy that I had been taken from my left breast was cancerous. My mind immediately started racing. Thoughts like, has it metastasized, I'm going to die, I should have had a mammogram sooner, went rushing through my mind. It took a couple days for those three words, "you have cancer" to sink in. Thankfully, I had an advantage. I had been teaching kids about mindset, ways to reduce stress, and positive self-talk for many years. I was very conscious of how the words we choose to use effects our mindset and stress level. I consciously eliminated words from my vocabulary.
Surgery October 2018
On October 31 (Halloween) I had surgery to remove the lump from my left breast. I really don't like feeling nauseated or experiencing a lot of pain, so I used meditations that I had created to help me relax, focus on healing, and help with my ability to handle the side effects of anesthesia. I also had energy work done before, during and after surgery. Studies have shown that energy work, such as Reiki, reduces stress, pain, and anxiety. I remember feeling very calm as I waited to be wheeled into the operating room.
Appointment with my surgical oncologist - November 2019
I went for a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to have the staples removed from my left breast. Once again, I was unprepared for what he would tell me. As I was sitting listening to him, I thought I was going to pass out. He informed me that he removed 7.5cm of tumour and the margins were all positive. He had also removed 3 lymph nodes, two of which were positive. One of the lymph nodes was 4 cm. This was NOT good news. My whole treatment plan changed that day. Now they were recommending chemotherapy, more surgery, followed by radiation. It was time to up my game! I was sent for a CT scan, bone scan, heart ultrasound, and bloodwork. I worried that the cancer had already metastasized. I also knew that they were checking to see if my heart could handle the chemotherapy. Some of the drugs can cause damage to your heart. I was adamant that if I was going to go through all of this anguish, I did not want to have complications afterwards. My quality of life was more important than quantity. I was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure I could lead a productive and happy life after treatment.
Chemotherapy - 6 rounds every 3 weeks - January - May 2019
I, along with a friend and colleague, created a powerful visualization to help me through chemotherapy. Science has shown that creative visualization has a positive effect on health, immunity, healing, and pain management. Losing my hair was one of the toughest things for me. My hair was the one part of my body I liked. I knew this was an opportunity for me to focus on my mindset. Just as I teach kids to look for the opportunities in challenging times, I knew I needed to do the same. I took this as an opportunity to love myself at a deeper level. With the help of a couple powerful techniques, I was able to truly accept and love myself just as I was. The added bonus was that even though I was in the middle of chemotherapy, my hair started to grow back. I also added other holistic tools which helped me get through chemo with minimal nausea and NO vomiting.
Full left mastectomy performed (12 lymph nodes removed) - June 2019
Again, I listened to meditations I had created to help prepare me for surgery and to help with recovery. It is now an accepted fact that anxiety causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, lowers your threshold for pain, and agitates your nervous system, all of which hinder a successful surgery. Research has shown (and doctors now accept this) that meditation helps to relax your physical self which helps the doctors do the surgery. Meditation has been shown to promote post-op recovery by improving the rate of surgical wound healing and reducing the length of time spent in the hospital.
Radiation 16 sessions August - September 2019
What we say to ourselves has a huge impact on our wellbeing. MRI's have shown how saying positive things lights up the reward centre in your brain. These positive affirmations light up neural pathways that make changes to the areas in your brain that make you happy and more positive. I created a list of very specific affirmations to help protect my normal cells from radiation, including my skin, lungs, and heart. My radiation oncologist was very pleased with how well my skin handled the radiation.
September 2019 - November 2019
I learned how powerful our beliefs are when it comes to our health. I had two friends that had completed radiation not long before I did. Their skin had burned very badly and had required regular dressing changes. I felt guilty about breezing through the radiation. Why was I getting off so easily and yet my friends had to suffer. Well, my body helped me with that. My skin continued to burn until I too needed to dress my skin. With the help of a friend and colleague, I became aware of limiting beliefs I held around only being able to have good things in my life if I struggled first. With the help of my friend we released these old beliefs. I was amazed at how quickly my skin healed again after that.
I had several follow-up appointments with my radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and surgical oncologist.
December 2019 - January 2020
Noticed my left arm was swollen. Blood clot was ruled out. Referred to the lymphedema clinic.
February - March 2020
Was very excited to start living - getting out doing things I loved, seeing friends and family and travelling. Then...COVID hit and we were locked down. I had to keep up my Conscious Care Plan so that I didn't fall into darkness. It was tough being isolated, so I added to my plan by focusing on ways I could support my power mindset. I created worksheets and journal prompts to keep me focused on what I could do rather than what I could not do.
I felt a lump in my right breast. Was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound, which was delayed once due to COVID. They told me that things looked okay and to have a repeat mammogram and ultrasound in six months. I was intensely fearful. Invasive ductal carcinoma can be difficult to see on ultrasound and mammogram. I had a difficult time convincing myself that they just couldn't "see" the cancer growing. I started considering have my right breast removed. I didn't want to have to go through this fear again. I met with my surgical oncologist to discuss options and then was referred to a plastic surgeon to discuss possible reconstructive surgery. I also attended a lymphedema clinic and had my arm tightly wrapped every 3-4 days for a couple weeks. I then purchased a compression sleeve and glove that I needed to wear daily. This was a reminder everyday of what I'd been through.
Made the decision to have mastectomy on the right side followed by trans flap reconstructive surgery. Because of COVID, the wait began. I continued to add to my Conscious Care Plan. I created more activities, worksheets, journal prompts and way to celebrate.
Surgery - November 2020
Due to Covid, I was not allowed any visitors which was very difficult for me as I was going to be in hospital for 5 days. I pulled out my care plan and put things in place to make my hospital stay more manageable and to help keep my spirits up. I really focused on healing. Knowing that had had support and techniques to use made it much easier to walk through those hospital doors alone early on the morning of my surgery. My surgery was 14 hours. For the first 24 hours I was checked every hour. I was pleasantly surprised at how little pain and fatigue I experienced. My nurses were surprised at how well I was able to get up and walk. My surgeon was very pleased with how well I tolerated the surgery. I was so happy to go home on day 4, a day earlier than expected.
* CANCER FREE - JANUARY 2021 *
After a CT scan, I had an appointment with my medical oncologist and was declared cancer free. That was a huge milestone.
I was advised to take anastrozole for 7 years rather than the usual 5. I would still need regular checkups, but I was discharged from the oncology program. It's difficult to describe how I felt. Part of me was jumping for joy, and yet, I felt lost. I was no longer the same person I had been when I started. My life had been put on hold, but now, I was free. I had gotten used to all the support from the medical staff. My life had been filled with appointments and treatments. What would I do with all my free time? My friends would tell me I looked good. That should have made me feel good, but it didn't. I didn't feel done. I realized there was still emotional healing to be done. I had many choices to make. I had been a giver and a people pleaser my whole life. I realized that it was now time for ME. I could choose to do whatever I wanted. I wasn't used to that. I had always thought about what was best for my kids first. How was I going to move forward?
I started to create methods to figure out what I truly wanted. I started to lay out a path to create a life I love and where I put ME first.
Now, I am loving life. Having a plan in place during and after treatment made a tremendous difference. Many people told me how I went through it with such grace. That was only possible because I had a powerful mindset, a plan and tons of support. I am so grateful to my medical team, family, friends, and colleagues.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, I want to help. Going through treatment is hard enough. Please reach out and allow me to walk you through your journey and make it a little less traumatic. It's time to put YOU first.
Foothills Hospital School of Nursing
Sept 1980 - June 1983
Paediatric Oncology Nurse, Alberta Children’s Hospital
1983 - 1986
Head Nurse on Oncology Unit, Alberta Children’s Hospital
Paediatric Oncology, BC Children’s Hospital
Emergency/IV Team, BC Children’s Hospital
Certified Moving on Coach, Parsons Learning Centre
May - June 2006
Life Mentorship Training, Centre for Inspired Living
January - July 2006
Certified Life Mentor Practitioner, Centre for Inspired Living
September 2006 - February 2007
Reiki Master Level, Sandy Day
June 2007 - January 2008
Health Coaching U, Health & Wellness Coach
Jan 2009 - Jan 2010
Sound Wellness Level I, Sound Wellness
AWARDS AND OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Womanition SuPEARLative Award
• Education & Mentoring
• Award for women across Alberta who are deserving of recognition for their contributions in various categories. They are “pearls” in their industry.
Womanition, September 2016
Nominated for Women Of Inspiration
• A Woman of Inspiration is an extraordinary woman who leads by example, lives on purpose and inspires others to be more and do more.
• Business Chicks, September 2017
Owner & Founder of Confident Happy Kids
• Help children to boost their confidence, develop a growth mindset, and enhance their coping skills, so that they can become confident, resilient, and successful young adults.
• Also teach parents how to best support their children, improve communication, and create a more harmonious home.
2012 - Current
A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO OUR INTENTIONAL CHOICE OF SYMBOLS
In addition to being Nola’s last name, the PEACOCK spirit animal is the epitome of beauty. This graceful creature offers lessons about self-love, honor, integrity and the importance of facing life’s challenges as well as the unknown, with courage and confidence. The peacock animal totem is symbolic of integrity and rejuvenation.
The HEXAGON is a Symbol of Universal Coherence. It represents harmony and balance and is the strongest shape known: it is made up of 6 perfectly balanced triangles! We also love that it is found in a beehive - which is true community in nature. If you research hexagons and sacred geometry you will be inspired by the power of this shape.