On December 8th 2013, my twin sister, Nicole, was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia (AML) at 25 years old. It was a day that shook our family to its core. Cancer? Not possible…but it was true. Nicole’s diagnosis came as shock to all of us. She had just become engaged to her husband three months prior, and we were in the midst of wedding planning when everything changed.
The night before Nicole’s diagnosis, she and I were hosting a Christmas party with our closest friends. Nicole hadn’t been feeling well for several months. Though, in true Nicole fashion, she still made the most of her night - laughing and snacking with friends. The next morning, she said to me through tears “I just want to feel better”. Nicole and I didn’t hug often, but that morning we did and I told her “it’s going to be okay”. But there was a sinking feeling that something was really not right. She was diagnosed later that day.
I cried myself to sleep that night. Cancer seemed so foreign, but had now become deeply personal. Nicole immediately began chemotherapy, which put her into remission, and began preparing for a stem cell transplant. The treatments were vigorous and intense. On April 25th 2014, Nicole received her stem cell transplant, sharing her “second birthday” with her very special nephew who turned 3 years old that same day.
As a result of the treatments, but even more so because of her sheer determination, Nicole was soon in remission. She was in remission for about two years, and during that time lived her life to the fullest. She married her husband, Chad, in what was surely the happiest day of their lives, and I have to say, also one of mine. They fought hard to get there, and it was a weekend we will all remember. We thought we were in the clear.
Sadly, in the spring of 2016, a day before their one year wedding anniversary, Nicole received the heartbreaking news that the Leukemia had come back. Chemotherapy was ineffective, and on May 19th 2016, we were told Nicole had only months to live. We were all in disbelief - it was a heartbreaking day. Nicole’s first words to me were “it’s okay, life will still be good” - a perfect example of her strength, she comforted me. Two days later, we celebrated our 28th birthday - what would be our last birthday together.
Nicole found joy in the simplest of things - a lesson to be learned. She fought hard and graciously that next year, and we made many amazing memories. Quality time was spent with family and friends - that is what Nicole valued most. She fought through physically painful and emotionally challenging days, and always found a reason to smile. On May 3rd 2017, Nicole passed away. I find peace in knowing she was loved so deeply, and by so many. She made an impact on people to an extent that she probably never realized.
Being a twin is part of who I am, and losing Nicole was like losing a part of myself. Nicole was everything to me. Now, her memory is everything to me, and I will live the rest of my life honouring her and making sure she is never forgotten. I joined Team in Training as a way to commemorate my twin, and to help in the fight against blood cancers so that hopefully one day no other lives are lost to this disease. In August 2017, my best friend Kayleigh and I created Team Tink! In honour of Nicole. We signed up for the Disney World Half Marathon and ran in January 2018. Between August and January, we raised over $22,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.