PHOENIX — It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are a lot of parties to go to and a lot of presents to buy.
One Valley woman is celebrating the holidays a little bit differently than most and she’s sharing her story in hopes it will inspire all of us to enjoy the season to the fullest.
Mornings in the Rimsza house are busy — getting breakfast on the table for Nicole, her husband Brian and son Jarron, and then heading out to do the school run. It’s busy but Nicole wouldn’t have it any other way.
She especially loves her family’s holiday traditions.
“Well I love to bake, I love to cook, so that’s always included…” However, she bakes and cooks a little differently than most.
She explains: “Most people looking at me would never know what I’ve been through and the fact that I don’t have a stomach.”
She says a lot of people are shocked when she tells them her stomach was removed. But she’s open about it because she wants to share her story.
Six years ago, Nicole got devastating news. She noticed black stool and scheduled an appointment to get checked. She says she’ll never forget that doctor’s visit.
“You have stomach cancer…And obviously, my husband and I….all I heard was the word cancer,” Nicole recalls.
She was just 32 years old. She was shocked because stomach cancer is, by itself, rare. Most patients are in their 60s and early-stage symptoms are hard to spot meaning most cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.
According to The Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of stomach cancer are loss of appetite, black stool and stomach pains.
Under doctor’s recommendations, Nicole underwent chemotherapy and decided to have surgery to remove her entire stomach. But the road to recovery wasn’t easy and she had a lot of questions.
“Was I going to have a feeding tube?” she wondered. Doctors explained that food would go directly to her intestines from the esophagus and over time she would develop a small pocket to hold food.
Hospitalized for roughly two weeks, she says her family was the only thing helping her get through.
It was the hardest battle Nicole and her family had ever been through. That battle hard fought — and won. Victory is now on display in their home through pictures.
“The day before I had my stomach removed was when we had those pictures taken,” she recounts.
Six years on and Nicole says, other than a smaller plate of food, not much has changed for her. She feels normal and healthy and thankful for every Christmas she spends with her loved ones.
“That’s when you’re surrounded by family and people who you love and you cherish those moments just a little bit more.”
She’s hoping her story will bring awareness to the disease and hopes people will take their health into their own hands.
She urges everyone to visit the doctor if something just doesn’t feel right, it could end up saving your life.