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The Voice of the Black Community

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Cancer survivor refuses to slow down
 
Published Thursday, March 16, 2017
by Evelyn Howell, Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL – Forty-three-year-old Nicole Armstrong is living with an advanced stage of colon cancer. And she is determined to beat the odds.

“It is a journey,” said Armstrong, seated in chair No. 36 on the third floor of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.

“Every other week I go to get chemo. I am on a mission – meeting new people, letting someone know that there is a CAN in cancer and you can make it,” said the mother of three. “Have faith in God. He is able to keep you.”

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and Armstrong said she wants to use her voice to encourage others to educate themselves because colon cancer is striking people at a younger age.

“Pay attention to your body. Get educated and get screened,” she continued. “Don’t play with pain, and don’t let insurance barriers be an excuse. You can start with your local health department with resources that can lead in the right direction.”

In 2015, Armstrong was rushed to an emergency room for pain in her side. Diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, she immediately underwent a total hysterectomy and partial colon removal followed by six months of chemotherapy. Afterward, she said she was declared cancer free.

However, three months later, the cancer returned in her pelvis behind her bladder. Her treatment required radiation everyday for four weeks to shrink the tumor followed by additional rounds of chemotherapy. Since then she has been enduring chemotherapy every other Wednesday.

One in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer, and one in 10 is diagnosed before the recommended screening age of 50.

Armstrong said the diagnosis is a surprise to her and her family given there is no family history of colon cancer. However, she is still optimistic.

“Currently, she is responding to the treatment she is receiving, said Dr. Autumn McRee, oncology faculty member at UNC and Armstrong’s oncologist. “She hasn’t let the cancer dim her life in any way.”

Colon cancer affects men and women equally.

“Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer behind breast cancer and lung cancer for women and lung cancer and prostate for men, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States,” McRee continued. “Early detection is obviously the only way to cure patients.”

Since her diagnosis, Armstrong has been participating in 5K walks, and giving pamphlets filled with information about colon cancer. And she always gives goody bags filled with pretzels, candies and cookies to patients she encounters because she was “a giver before cancer and sees no reason to stop giving now.”

Last year, she and her family were granted an all-expense paid trip to Atlanta by the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation based in Cary.

“Cancer does not have my mind nor my soul. No ways having a pity party,” she said.

Patti Morfeld was Armstrong’s nurse on her first day of chemo and describes her as “bubbly.”

“She is determined to be cheerful regardless,” Morfeld said. “She is thoughtful and encourages other patients to be well informed.”

“Under the circumstances, she has kept me going. She encourages and inspires me by the faith and strength she has,” said Liz Armstrong, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church in Garner and Armstrong’s mother. “I believe God can heal her. I know He can.”

Added Nicole: “You have to take the good with the bad. You cannot let it take you down. You got to want to win.”

Cancer notes:

Besides early screening, other preventive measures include exercise and a diet high in fiber.

Most colon cancer patients report having no symptoms prior to their diagnosis.

Some risk factors for the disease include age – the risk for polyps increases as we age, especially over 50 – a family history of polyps or of colon cancer, obesity and smoking, and a high-fat diet and alcohol consumption.

Symptoms include change in bowel habits, including diarrhea for more than three days or constipation more than two weeks; change in color or shape of the stool; rectal bleeding and blood in the stool or in the toilet; stomach discomfort or cramping, including a continual feeling of discomfort or urge to have a bowel movement; and unexplained fatigue, weakness or weight loss.

For more information about colon cancer, visit coloncancercoalition.org and the americancancersociety.org.

Comments

Nicole's Faith is strong, just as her smile is Bright, keep on Living as your an woman of faith that truly inspires me ....Cancer doesn't have us WE have Cancer :-)
Posted on March 20, 2017
 
Nicole is an absolute joy and is encouraging to others while she is going through this trial as an example of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She is a real blessing and testimony to others.
Posted on March 17, 2017
 
Wow! I've had the pleasure of working with Nicole and her son last year. I love them both and I am inspired by her story.
Posted on March 16, 2017
 
Yes. I love her. She really inspires me.
Posted on March 16, 2017
 
There's so much that I could say about Nicole but I'll leave it at you're the best you keep on inspiring me and we love you!!
Posted on March 16, 2017
 
Nicole is a wonderful, kind, and loving best friend. If you know her, you gotta love her!
Posted on March 16, 2017
 

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