A Breast Cancer Love Story: Meet Survivor and Healer, Kristen “Nikki” Cook

My name is Kristen Nicolette Cook, my friends and family call me Nikki. From a very young age, I knew exactly what I wanted out of life. I mapped out my life including where I would attend college, the courses I would take, the degree I would obtain, my career after graduation, and even when I expected to meet my husband. I did this while in 6th grade and from that day on, I tried my best to go according to the plan. I’m pretty sure I heard God laugh a time or two. Deviating from this ideal plan, I ended up attending several colleges including Baylor University and Texas State University after graduating high school back in 2010. During my time at Texas State University, I donated a kidney to my aunt and gave birth to my precious, lively little girl, my sweet Olivia. While attending Lamar University I was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, I had more important things to do than be sick.  I will be completing my Bachelor’s degree next month in December from Lamar University.

When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?

In May 2012 I donated a kidney to my aunt who was in renal failure. I was 20 years old at the time. I was out of the hospital in 2 days and continued to live a healthy life. November 2012, I got pregnant. I had not been previously warned against getting pregnant, however, I was encouraged to wait until about a year. During the summer of 2013, I was having intense back aches on the left side where the kidney was removed from. I was admitted into the hospital and given IV fluid. Because the kidney was removed from my left side, the doctors had me lying on my right side. Consequently, my right breast swelled to the size of my head from the fluids being pulled to that side. Once released from the hospital, it took a couple of weeks for the swelling to go down. I remember feeling something in my breast at that time, but I just figured it was residual fluid.  On August 29, 2013, I gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. I began nursing her before the lactation nurse came to visit us. I had done my research. I knew that nursing would reduce her chances of getting sick and my chances of getting breast cancer. I nursed Olivia for 9 months. After this time, I shared the mass in my breast with her father who suggested that I go get it checked out. During this time, his mother was battling breast cancer so anything suspicious was a concern to him. I refused to go to the doctor. I believed it was still just the fluid and my milk. I had done everything right. I didn’t smoke, I barely drank, I was healthy, I exercised, and plus I had just nursed for 9 months. In September 2014, Olivia’s father and I split. The mass was still there. It hadn’t grown or become a hindrance in my life, but it was there. During the summers, I worked at a snoball stand. Lifting my arms was part of the job description. In the spring of 2018 when we started our season, business was booming at the stand and it caused my right shoulder to throb having to lift my arms daily. A couple of weeks into work, the pain went away, but there was a knot under my armpit. At this moment, I knew what was going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. On April 19, 2018, I went to get a check up on the knot under my armpit. Then on April 24, 2018, I received the phone call.

What was your immediate reaction upon being diagnosed?

The doctor blurted out a million things in about 5 seconds over the phone, my head was spinning, and my heart was heavy. I was at work where I was surrounded by friends and family. I walked inside of the little red building and bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t breathe. The man that I worked for looked up at me and said “It’s the bad shit, huh?”. Following this, I had to have several heart wrenching conversations with family members and friends. It was tough, but the hardest part was explaining that I was going to refuse chemo, radiation, and surgery.

Why did you choose not to do chemo? Have you tried it all?

The immediate reason is because I have a 5 year old daughter. It is not her responsibility to make sure that mommy’s hair gets swept up or that mommy’s mouth gets cleaned after she vomits as a side effect from the chemo. I could not be that much of a burden to my family. I needed to live and so I chose to revoke death. Scientifically, research has shown that chemo and radiation causes secondary cancers which are more harmful than the initial cancer. Finally, I love my hair. It is absolutely perfect and I don’t want to start over from scratch.

Is there any history of breast cancer or any cancer in your family?

There is no history of breast cancer in my family. Olivia’s father’s mother had breast cancer and that puts extreme fear in my heart for her, but all I can do is pray over her and help her make healthy life choices.

What lifestyle changes have you made?

Initially, I was juicing everyday and trying to work out 5 days a week. I realized I was causing myself to stress more about my healing than I was about my diagnosis, so I took a step back. I have learned to stress less. When I am feeling an emotion that is less than optimal for my health and state of mind, I inform the source of that feeling and try to purge myself of it. I only do what I want to do. I don’t have time to do things that I don’t like just to make other people happy. I was listening to a Cancer Health Summit and Iyanla Vanzant was sharing her story about how cancer has affected her family. Dr. Vanzant stated that her daughter died of a rare colon cancer. She said she walked in on her daughter crying and she asked her what was wrong. Her daughter responded that she wanted Thanksgiving food. Iyanla reminded her daughter that she could not have the macaroni and cheese because it did not go with her alternative lifestyle. Dr. Vanzant then said when her daughter transitioned, that conversation was one of her regrets. With this story in mind, I do not want to live avoiding all of the things that I love because they might not be the perfect anti-cancer protocol. I do need to get more strict with my diet because eating better gives me more energy, but I am not walking on eggshells.

What alternative methods of healing have you tried? Are there any that you feel have worked best for you?

I have done infrared therapy at a wellness spa and I loved it. It was intense and I got a crazy sweat out of it. As far as being beneficial towards healing cancer, I’m not sure that it was. However, I did enjoy the stress relieving properties of it. I also do coffee enemas. I like doing them daily but sometimes my schedule does not permit. Coffee enemas require me to have at least an hour of private time. Even though it is in my restroom, I love it. I place a towel on the floor, turn on Netflix or Hulu, and just relax without anyone disturbing me. Also, coffee enemas help relieve so much pressure in my body and alleviate any pain that I am in from a headache to menstruation cramps.

How has your journey with breast cancer changed your faith?

My journey has revealed who God is in a larger aspect. I had never dealt with health issues so I had only heard about God being a healer and a keeper. Now, every day that I wake up, I get to know Him as a keeper. I know that whether in this life or the next, He will be a healer. Another part of my faith that I have grown in is realizing that His Will will be done. I lived the picture of perfect health and yet, it was in God’s will for me to get cancer. It does not matter how many gallons of carrot juice I drink, or how many coffee enemas I take, God’s Will will be done. If He will receive more glory from me perishing due to this ailment, then I am okay with that. My relationship with Him tells me that He has more work for me to do in spite of cancer and that’s why I haven’t been healed yet. That same reason is why I cant die yet. There are more avenues like this one that God needs me to utilize to share this story, which is really His story, before I can move to the next phase of my life, whether by healing or transitioning. I just pray that I can do
what He needs me to do and He will leave me here for as long as necessary to see my child and my family. My flesh wants to beat cancer and live here until I’m in old age. My spirit says that I want to serve in spite of until I get to see Jesus for myself.

What does your support system look like?

My support system is a funny one. I know that I have friends and family that will do whatever I need them to, but I wont let them. I’m not the person to require help now and I have never been. There are times when I want to scream out, “But I have cancer! Do this for me!” and then I realize that my flesh is winning and I need to pray to build my strength back up. I sometimes want more sympathy but I don’t allow myself to dwell in that. But in all honesty, I don’t let my support system do too much supporting because I’m afraid that they will see me as weak.

What has motivated you on your journey to keep fighting?

My life has motivated me to keep fighting. I have a good life. My child is beautiful and healthy and I have the rest of my life ahead of me. I fight because this life is worth living. I want to see my future that I have worked so hard for. I want God to be pleased with the work that I’ve done here so far as well as be allowed to continue doing it. I fight because even with cancer, there is still someone else in a worse situation and they need to see how I make it over to give them the strength to do the same. I fight for those around me who pull from my strength and reserve. I fight because to me, that is the only option.

What would you like to tell other women who have been diagnosed?

First, I would tell her that I am sorry. I apologize that society did not give her the tools that she needed to be healthy and whole. I would apologize that our food system is so jacked up that we are eating empty calories with very little nutrition. On the other hand, I would remind her that God does not bring us to anything that He wont bring us through. I would tell other women to embrace every emotion that they feel. It is scary, it is devastating, but those are emotions that need to be felt. By suppressing emotions, we give cancer, or any bad diagnosis, too much power. Next I would say to pray. Pray for guidance and to be led to what would benefit them. When we jump into chemo, we don’t even ask our bodies what it needs or how it will respond. This is such an important step, understanding what the body is lacking and how we need to supplement it. Then, of course, don’t try to face it alone. Some people handle things better alone, like myself, but I know who I need to call when it gets unbearable. We all need somebody.

Do you have any health updates since your diagnosis that you would like to share?

As of now, there are no updates. I have not gone back for scans because I am avoiding putting any foreign objects or substances in my body as well as exposure to xrays and radiation. I will say that since the diagnosis, the tumor has effected more of my breast than it had in all the previous years that I was concerned about it. Now I am experiencing “peau d’orange” which just means that the breast is swollen and looks like the skin of an orange. Other than this, all is well and I try to live every day with full intention of succeeding and being my best. I am looking to add meditation to my daily routine as well as healing visualizations. If we can heal the mind, we can heal the body.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Yes, the downside of holistic medicine. That is correct, I said there is a downside to holistic medicine. While changing my lifestyle and eating habits, my hair has grown longer and healthier, my nails are long and strong, my skin is popping, and I get more sleep than before. So what is the downside you ask? It is the same great hair, nails, skin, and energy and strength that I feel. Let me explain.

There is a wig lady on Instagram who hosted a contest for women battling breast cancer. She was going to draw three names and award a custom lace front wig to each of the winners. One of my cousins, an avid wig wearer, put my name in the drawing and my name was pulled. I was so excited because I’ve been wanting a wig for a long time. Then it hit me. I can almost bet that when the lady started the drawing, it was probably to be a blessing to someone who didn’t have hair or maybe felt down because of her appearance as a result from the chemo, radiation, and surgery. When I let this thought captivate my mind, I was filled with guilt. How could I accept this gift, that I won fair and square when there are other women battling this same diagnosis that may be struggling with their outer appearance? I really did not know, nor do I know now, if I can happily accept it because I am not what some people view as a “typical cancer patient”.

Along the same lines as this, I am participating in a 5K event in honor of Mrs. Rhondolyn Evett Dearbonne-Morris, a young lady who passed of Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2016. I have ran in this event since it was started in the year of her passing before I was even diagnosed. This year I am hosting a team for the first time. It struck me last night that so much has changed since this time last year. Last year if someone had told me that this year I would be participating as someone with cancer, I would have told them that they were liars. But yet, here we are. There will be people at this event who have no idea about my diagnosis. There will be women there who look like they have cancer. I really hate to say it that way. But because of the medications and contemporary interventions, women who no longer have their breasts or hair and women that present as weak and fragile have become the face of breast cancer. How can I get up at this event, with my bouncing curls and energy, stand next to these women who are fighting for their lives, and say that we have the same illness? To this question, I say that I honestly do not know. I know that God put holistic medicine in my spirit for a reason. I am changing the appearance of breast cancer. I acknowledge that God has blessed me to look the way that I
look and that everything about my situation is divinely orchestrated. On the other hand my flesh is urging me to feel guilty. My flesh says that because I do not look like I am struggling, I do not have the right to say that I was diagnosed with cancer. This is my truth.

How can other women or anyone wanting to contact you with questions or comments regarding holistic healing for breast cancer or support for their own journey with this diagnosis get in touch with you?

By phone at 832-721-1396 or email ossmom0829@gmail.com. Also another great resource for support is www.redmfoundation.org . You can also find more information there on the 5K walk/run that I’ll be leading a team for on Saturday November 3rd in Liberty, TX.

My life, my beautiful, twisted, dark, electric, joyful, blessed life is unpredictable and painful yet exciting and perfect. I couldn’t imagine it being any different. I ask God to use me, He allows me to touch lives while going through this process. I ask God to heal me, He brings my family a little bit closer every day. In my weakness, I ask God where is His love for me, and He reminds me that I have the best boyfriend and daughter around that pour love on me constantly. God doesn’t give me what I want in the form that I expect it, but He always gives me what I need in the form that will bless me and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

I want to thank Corinthian for this opportunity to share some of my story. It is not pretty and has plenty of gaps. Some may ask what took me so long. Others may still question why I refused chemo and radiation. I say that God knew what He was doing. I am currently at a new church and the environment has been so conducive to healing. I would not have been able to receive the support and preaching anywhere else that I have now with my new church family at The Luke in Humble, Texas. I also realized that my daughter needed to be older and more capable of understanding what was happening. I needed to be her mother before I became anyone’s patient. Finally, I needed Terric, my boyfriend of 2 years. He has loved, supported, and treasured me like gold from the moment he laid eyes on me. Without him, I might have given up on myself. These 3 aspects of my life had to be in place so that God’s complete will could be done in my life.

With all the love in this universe,

Nikki Cook

Nikki, I thank you for inviting me into your world for a brief moment and for granting me the opportunity to learn from your beautiful story. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for being a warrior and for demanding your healing. Thank you for shining your light ever so bright and for the courage to fight. Thank you for being transparent, vulnerable, and honest while also being sincere, kind, and loving. It is my prayer that God continues to give you the strength, courage, wisdom, and knowledge that you need to heal and flourish. You are a champion. May you continue to inspire more women on their journeys with me being one of them. I love you, queen. -Corinthian

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