Staying local for treatment

Cindy Nicholson, Pam Kaylor and Phyllis Wilkins are all breast cancer survivors and Shelby Baptist Medical Center employees. (Contributed)

Cindy Nicholson stayed local for breast cancer treatments

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

Three days before her Oct. 24 breast reconstruction surgery, Cindy Nicholson seemed calm as she sat in her office at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Wearing a pink shirt, Nicholson, who is the director of human resources, also was sporting a gray pixie cut, having decided that week to ditch the headscarves she began wearing after losing her hair during chemotherapy.

In the year that has passed since her breast cancer diagnosis, Nicholson experienced a new relationship with her employer – that of a patient and health care provider.

She said she’s had an positive experience and hopes other Shelby County residents will realize they don’t have to travel for cancer treatments.

“We have all the pieces here and all the players here to handle it from diagnosis to recovery,” she said.

Nicholson doesn’t have a history of breast cancer in her family, so her diagnosis with the disease last fall came as a bit of a surprise. A mammogram in May 2011 turned up some “suspicious spots,” so her doctor scheduled another a few months later.

This time, she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. She opted to have a bilateral mastectomy because her type of cancer had a high likelihood of recurring in the other breast.

First, however, she decided to seek a second opinion, just to be thorough. The other hospital recommended the same treatment as Shelby Baptist, so Nicholson prepared for her treatment.

Following her January 2012 surgery, Nicholson had several months of chemotherapy beginning in March.

Through it all, she was surrounded by family and “the sisterhood” – a group of six Shelby Baptist employees who have also survived breast cancer.

“Having a supportive network has really made a difference,” Nicholson said. “We all pat each other on the back and say, ‘Been there, done that.'”

Nicholson said the women also hope to raise awareness about breast cancer, especially the importance of regular mammograms.

“Just wearing pink or thinking pink doesn’t really help unless people take action,” she said.