A breast cancer diagnosis and impending surgery has prompted an outpouring of community support among residents in the Comox Valley.
Problems began unfolding last year. Rebecca Nicol recalls the strange pain she felt in her left breast.
“It started back in October,” she said. “With my family history, [my doctor] said it was time for me to get a mammogram.”
After many mammograms, biopsies and an MRI, Rebecca was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The diagnosis means she will be getting a double mastectomy.
Knowing her family history, Rebecca is taking a composed view of what’s ahead. Past family experiences with cancer helped her make the decision. Rebecca says she wants to be calm and open about her experiences and be an advocate for others.
“I guess it’s made it a bit easier for me,” she said. “The only thing that scares me about it is there are so many unknowns after the surgery.”
“The surgery may not go as planned, the reconstruction may not happen as we hope, the pathology may come back that they didn’t get it all. But at this point, everything looks positive.”
Rebecca moved to the Comox Valley over four years ago, relocating from Squamish. She’s the general manager of Foxy Box Wax Bar, in addition to working with mountain biking groups and non-profit organizations in the area.
The organizations get kids out on bicycles who otherwise would not have the opportunity. The diagnosis, however, has briefly put a hold on her community work.
She says her experience has shown her how supportive her friends, family members and mountain biking community are towards her and what she’s going through.
Her friend, Stephanie Bloomfield, has set up a GoFundMe page to help her cover the financial costs of travelling to and from Victoria to see specialists and get surgery.
She says others have been offering to get her small things and day-to-day jobs.
Stephanie adds that watching Rebecca go through this experience has changed the way she looks at how she should prioritize her health in the future.
“Seeing how she took everything in stride, she wasn’t going to let it bring her down,” said Stephanie. “It certainly made me realize that as a woman in my early 40s, I probably should be prioritizing my health as well.”
The conversation, however, has gone farther than just to immediate friends and family. Rebecca says many other women in the community have approached her to talk about how to move forward with watching out for cancer.
At a local mountain bike race, more and more people began talking to her and hearing her experience.
“One of the ladies that was in line in front of us, Rebecca was sort of chatting with, and this came up and she burst into tears,” said Stephanie.
“Once that started happening and the story kinda spread around the people we were in, we had another woman in the back going ‘can I ask you a question? I’ve been called back for a second mammogram because they think that they’ve found something. How urgent should this be?’”
“It was really nice to see that it was such an open comfortable conversation for Rebecca. People felt that they could just ask in front of dozens of women who are complete strangers.”
Both Rebecca and Stephanie found it very heartwarming to see so many willing to ask questions and prioritize their health.
Moving forward, Rebecca says women need to get comfortable with their general practitioner or anyone who they can talk to and get support.
She adds cancer has put things in perspective. She says life is short and she recommends others in her position do what brings them joy.
“It’s just that reminder that life is kind of short and we’re not just here to pay bills and die,” she said. “So, do what makes you happy even if it’s not what’s going to make you rich.”
Rebecca hopes to get back to working with United Riders of Cumberland Ladies Rides and rebooting her non-profit foundation Spread the Stoke as she recovers.