She is a loving wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and I know her loving community of family and friends will continue to support her in every way possible.
Our community is large and mighty! When one of us is in need, we rally!
Nicole’s rally started a few weeks ago, when we decided to show our love and support by lighting the neighborhood up in pink to welcome her home from the hospital after some devastating news.
Here’s the link to the Fox News story about lighting the neighborhood up pink!
It continued with a neighborhood party to help Nicole and Andy celebrate an upcoming birthday party for their 5-year old daughter. We celebrated with her and their other children, ages 3 years and 7months.
We recently learned Nicole may have hope for extending her time with us... she’s heading to MD Anderson in Houston to learn about additional treatment options and see if she qualifies for a clinical trial.
All funds received from this fundraiser will be used to help offset expenses in Nicole’s cancer treatments, Baby George’s medical care, and alleviate financial stresses on the Heyrman family. No donation is too small and all donations are greatly appreciated.
Below read Nicole’s journey, as told by her husband Andy:
A Young Mother’s Fight with Stage 4 Breast Cancer: Nicole Heyrman’s Story
While pregnant with our third child Nicole noticed a lump in her right breast pretty early on in her
pregnancy. Nicole brought this to the attention of her midwife at her next appointment and a
breast ultrasound was recommended. Nicole underwent an ultrasound, mammogram and
biopsy on October 6, 2017, 4 days after her 34th birthday. Our surgeon felt pretty confident it
was not anything to worry about, likely a benign mass that we would just need to keep an eye
on and maybe even remove after she was done breastfeeding, but still felt a biopsy was needed
to confirm this and give us some peace of mind. However, on October 13th, 2017, in the 15th
week of her pregnancy, our surgeon’s team called with the devastating news – the biopsy
results showed both extensive invasive lobular carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ breast
The next week was a blur between doctor appointments, surgery to install a portacath and multiple scans and imaging in order to gain a better understanding of the presence of disease in her body and the best way to fight it. Although breast cancer is becoming much too common for the general population (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in the US alone) it is still quite rare among pregnant women. Initial staging put Nicole at Stage 2B, with the understanding that final staging could be completed once the baby was born. There are treatment options available to women during the second trimester and six days after the diagnosis Nicole started chemotherapy. The plan was to receive two chemotherapy drugs, Adriamycin & Cyclophosphamide (AC), every three weeks for four treatments. This would be followed by a single mastectomy with axillary dissection and then an early delivery. Post-delivery treatment would include 12 weekly doses of chemotherapy, removal of the remaining left breast, initiating the reconstruction process and then six to seven weeks of daily radiation.
After her first treatment of AC the tumor had shrunk by approximately 60% - yay success!!! Unfortunately, this feeling of success was short lived as during our planning visit with our radiation oncologist a few days after receiving the second round of AC it appeared as though the tumor had increased back to its original size.
After a busy few days of appointments full of additional scans and tests we decided to alter the treatment plan and move the surgery up rather than give Nicole the third treatment of AC. On December 8th Nicole underwent a successful single mastectomy surgery and axillary dissection. We now just had to wait for the pathology results and were praying that the cancer stayed local and did not spread to her lymph nodes. Initial observations from our surgeon were positive as Nicole’s lymph nodes appeared slightly firm (common during pregnancy) but otherwise looked normal.
A week later our surgeon called with the pathology results – unfortunately there was some bad news along with our good news. Good news, the margins between the tumor and the edge of her breast tissue were clear, meaning there was no evidence of residual disease in the right chest area. Bad news, all 11 lymph nodes removed at the time of surgery contained active breast cancer cells. This new information, the lymph node involvement and the confirmed tumor size, lead to the escalation of Nicole’s breast cancer to Stage 3C.
During Nicole’s recovery from surgery there was a lot of discussion regarding next steps. After many more appointments and multiple second opinions from across the Midwest, we decided to finish the final two doses of AC since the lymph nodes showed signs the chemotherapy was working and then deliver the baby via C-section four weeks after the last AC treatment. We also decided to remove Nicole’s ovaries and fallopian tubes during the C-section procedure in an effort to remove the majority of hormone production in Nicole’s body, since her type of cancer feeds off of the hormones. Fortunately, this time period was relatively uneventful, Nicole handled the chemo drugs with minimal side effects and ultrasounds continued to show normal progression for the baby.
On February 19th, 34 weeks into the pregnancy, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy! George Thomas Heyrman weighed in at 5 pounds 8 ounces, which is quite a feat for an early baby. Another successful surgery with just a few complications that were easily handled by Nicole – not too bad (easy for me to say!). George was doing so well that the Neonatologist felt he could stay in the elevated risk area at the hospital’s nursery rather than going to the NICU. A week after delivery baby George was already home and Nicole was looking forward to her new chemotherapy treatment.
Eight days after her C-section Nicole started her new weekly chemotherapy regimen with a drug called Paclitaxel (brand name is Taxol). The night of her very first treatment with this drug Nicole came down with a fever and the chills and as the night progressed it was clear she really wasn’t feeling well. Her temperature was all over the place, it would go from mid-90’s to the mid to low 100’s and back. The next morning, we immediately got her in to see the doctor and after some testing and observation it was determined Nicole had sepsis (a bacterial infection in the blood that shuts down your organs). She soon checked into the hospital for additional treatment and monitoring. Unfortunately, we were kicked when we were already down, and while Nicole was in the hospital recovering from Sepsis we received the pathology results from the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tube – both ovaries contained active breast cancer cells. This was terrible news and our worst fear, as well all knew what the spreading of cancer to a distant site meant – Stage 4 breast cancer that is considered incurable and according to current statistics had a survival rate of 22% living after 5 years.
As it sits today, we are six treatments into the 12-week Taxol therapy and Nicole has been amazingly strong and continues to kick ass. She has suffered some of the more minor and manageable side effects of this drug and her blood counts have remained high enough to continue treatment each week.
George is now 8 weeks old and is a happy baby, growing and eating at all hours of the day and night. Our two oldest children, Harper (age 4) and Henry (age 2), are also managing pretty well. They understand mommy is “big sick” and know to be a bit more careful. But by and large we work hard to keep things as normal as possible for them. In addition to Nicole’s weekly treatment appointments we are in the process of getting second opinions from multiple cancer centers and research universities throughout the U.S. We have been told that our treatment plan up to this point has been the current standard of care but the reality of Stage 4 today is still very scary. We hold onto the fact that Nicole’s particular case is very unique from the traditional Stage 4 patient, since the site of distant disease showed only microscopic cells and has since been surgically removed, and with the advancement of medicine along with our continued understanding of cancer we continue to believe that we can and will beat this disease and diagnosis. There are many miraculous stories of women living with Stage 4 breast cancer five, ten and even 20 years down the line and pray that we also find long term remission.
Nicole continued to kick ass and completed her 12 weeks of Taxol in early spring, she suffered some of the more minor and manageable side effects of this drug and her blood counts remained high enough to continue treatment each week. In June we performed a full body scan which came back showing no evidence of disease (yah the first one now only a few hundred to go).
After a small break Nicole started and completed six weeks of localized radiation therapy on her chest and armpit, just like the other treatments she kicked ass and suffered minor (in the textbook only) side effects.
George is now 7 months old, still a happy and healthy baby, he continues to grow and eats all hours of the day and night. Our two oldest children, Harper (turning 5 soon) and Henry (age 3), are also managing pretty well. They understand mommy is “big sick” and continue to be a bit more careful. But by and large we still work really hard to keep things as normal as possible for them.
After suffering what we thought were tension headaches (they were bands of pain across the front that came and went) for a week we took Nicole to the ER late last Sunday and to our surprise we found a problem. The spiral CT scan showed a few growths. After checking into the hospital Nicole underwent an MRI with contrast. Upon review they identified 5 tumors with one located in her brain stem (this was the tumor blocking drainage and the cause of her headaches). With the tumor being located in an un-operable brain stem location our neurosurgeon told us it was not recommended to perform surgery to remove the remaining tumors.
To release the pressure, we performed emergency brain surgery Monday night to install a temporary stint. During surgery we also removed spinal canal fluid to have pathology test for breast cancer cells. On Tuesday morning the CT scan showed the stint worked and both sides of her brain drained properly so we scheduled surgery for 5:00pm on Tuesday to install the permanent drain. Yes, that’s right this badass woman had another brain surgery less than 24 hours after her first.
Wednesday morning, we unfortunately received bad news. The CT scan showed one side of her brain did not drain properly and we needed another brain surgery to install a second stint. We believe the tumor grew and closed the normal connection Tuesday night which only allowed one side to drain. The other terrible news we received was the spinal canal fluid test came back positive for breast cancer cells, (one of the worst things that can occur when fighting any kind of cancer). So, what did my amazing wife and mother of three children do, why of course she had her third brain surgery in three days (The dictionary does not contain the words to describe Nicole’s strength and courage). Thursday morning brought better news as the CT scan showed both stints were working properly and the fluid was no longer building up in her brain
After discussing treatment options with our medical team, we decided to perform 10 rounds of whole brain radiation. (Nicole completed her first therapy two days after her third brain surgery this week, the trend your sensing is correct, my wife is a badass). Once completed we will rescan and possibly perform more targeted radiation if possible or we will explore our chemotherapy options. Since the cancer cells broke through the blood barrier we do have not many chemo options available.
Frankly the prognosis is terrible. Our doctors told us time is short, we’ve been told Nicole is unlikely to live until Christmas. If she does not respond to the therapies her time may be much shorter. I find these words hard to say and even harder to type.
On Thursday we made the difficult decision to tell our oldest children Harper (6 days away from turning 5) and Henry (3) their mother may die soon. Our hope in doing this is to continue discussing with them and lay the foundation for healing by talking with Mom and Dad about where Mom may be going and how they can continue to talk with her. Just likes words cannot describe Nicole’s strength and courage through her battle, I’m unable to describe how hard it was to tell and now answer their questions since they’ve had a couple days to process the news. I believe this will help them as Nicole and I can answer together and let them know they will never be alone but it breaks our hearts.
We are still in the process of getting second opinions from multiple cancer centers and research universities throughout the U.S. We refuse to give in or give up as Nicole is way too special.
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