Bent But Never Broken - Nicole's Cancer Journey

2019 was to be the best year yet for Nicole, but life had a huge curve ball. In May of 2019 Nicole and Pete got married after 10 years of dating. Just weeks after celebrating the best day of their lives Nicole began experiencing left shoulder pain. After visiting her Primary Care Provider and having her first MRI completed in June she was referred to an Orthopedic specialist for what was thought to be a healing hairline fracture from a recent slip on wet tile. She was given a steroid pack and instructed to rest her shoulder. The pain seemed to come and go but worsening with each time. After a visit to a nearby emergency room in November for uncontrolled pain in her left shoulder an Xray was completed that showed negative result. Nicole followed up again with the Orthopedic specialist who ordered a repeat MRI completed on November 29th. Unfortunately, this time the MRI results showed a 4.1cm lesion on her acromion bone. With no delay, Nicole had a fine needle biopsy of the lesion on December 5th. After weeks of waiting and the biopsied tissues being sent to a specialty pathology facility the only answer she received was that tissue was confirmed a malignant round blue cell tumor and that more biopsied tissue was needed to confirm a diagnosis. For those that are unfamiliar with round blue cell tumors, it can include many different types of cancers and can be difficult to distinguish from each other. Nicole was then sent for a consultation with an Oncologist and Orthopedic Oncologist. From there, she had a surgical biopsy completed on December 20th with the Orthopedic Oncologist in order to obtain more tissue sample to be sent for pathology. In the meantime, Nicole underwent many tests that included multiple MRIs, CT scans, a bone scan, and a PET scan. Her shoulder pain remained a problem, but now headaches seemed to be the new larger struggle. With what was hoped to be all negative results, the MRI of the brain showed an abnormal formation on the dura portion of her brain. The dura is the outermost layer of the brain that lays next to the skull. After a referral to a Neurosurgeon, it was concluded that before any surgical intervention was to be taken her team of doctors would wait for a confirmed diagnosis from the second biopsy. After inconclusive results from the third pathologist who reviewed Nicole’s tissue, the biopsied tissue was to be sent to Mayo Clinic for review. While waiting for a confirmed diagnosis and plan of care for chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery Nicole began to develop vomiting and left sided facial swelling. She was immediately admitted into the hospital and underwent more MRIs and CT scans which concluded that the abnormality in her brain grew by 50% since the last scans. On January 2nd, she underwent a craniotomy with lesion removal, a procedure where a surgical opening is made in the skull to remove the portion of brain or bone affected by cancer. The surgery went exceptionally well and Nicole is expected to be home soon. Still with no confirmed diagnosis, her doctors are hopeful that with a new tissue sample a diagnosis can be made. Now if you’re still reading, we want to start off by saying thank you. We hope by reading Nicole’s story you’ve got a glimpse of the strength and courage she has had on this journey so far. We are asking for your help to ease the financial burden a cancer diagnosis has made on Nicole and Pete. If you don’t know Nicole, she is an exceptional person with the biggest heart who brings joy to everyone around her. She has worked as an oncology nurse for the past 5 years bringing ease to her patients during their most difficult times and is currently working as an Oncology Nurse Navigator. Nicole and Pete are genuinely the most selfless people and always willing to help others. With the money raised, Nicole and Pete plan on using it towards fertility preservation in order to have children in the future and all other medical bills accumulated along the way. We thank you so much for your contribution and continued prayers and support! Love, Nicole & Pete’s family and friends

Donations (0)

  • Jonathan GL Hall 
    • $50 
    • 18 hrs
  • Jean Cornwell  
    • $100 
    • 23 hrs
  • Ilana Primack 
    • $50 
    • 1 d
  • LeAnn Graff 
    • $100 
    • 1 d
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Fundraising team (5)

Joe Benedetto 
Raised $4,980 from 53 donations
Chicago, IL
Nicole Houlihan 
Pete Houlihan 
Team member
Raised $2,635 from 31 donations
Ester & Mark Houlihan 
Team member
Raised $1,425 from 12 donations
Kim Benedetto 
Team member
Raised $800 from 6 donations
This team raised $75,200 from 810 other donations.
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