For Nickia Walker, the August 5, 2011, phone call that told her she had stage I triple-negative breast cancer was both surprising and unsurprising. As the first woman in her family diagnosed with breast cancer, it was not genetics that prepared her to hear her diagnosis. It was the message that Nickia, a very spiritual woman, heard before she found the lump that led her to see a doctor.
“God spoke to me as a Christian before I knew anything about the cancer,” Nickia says. “I heard a call to be prepared for greatness, to be ready to carry the cross. At the time I didn’t know what to expect.”
Nickia’s faith led her through finding the lump, receiving that first phone call, and then through treatment and recovery.
“The news didn’t throw me off guard because I felt honored to be an example of what God can do,” says Nickia. “I’ve always trusted in God. The question was ‘OK, this happened. What do we do next?’”
With the support of her family – her husband, Sterling, and a teenage daughter and son – Nickia’s “next” was a lumpectomy, followed by genetic testing. Though only her great-grandmother had ever had breast cancer, the test showed a BRCA gene mutation. With that in mind, Nickia decided to have a bilateral mastectomy.
She took her daughter with her to the genetic counseling appointments to help prepare her for the choices she will face in the future. Nickia went on to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to decrease her risk of developing ovarian cancer.
“Ninety-nine percent of it was a mental thing,” the 36-year-old Philadelphia resident says. “You have to hone in on yourself and your higher power, whatever that higher power may be.”
After her mastectomy, Nickia underwent chemotherapy and later had reconstruction. Today, she employs her creative side to support her own passions as well as breast cancer organizations. She writes short films, movies and songs, and has a blog, Pink with a Purpose, that she hopes to turn into a book chronicling her breast cancer journey. In addition, she organizes stage shows as fundraisers for donations to the cause.
“Sometimes when you see others on the other side of the journey, you too believe in yourself,” she says.
Photo by Laurie Beck Photography
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