Cancer Fighter Nicole Cummings
While conquering cancer, college student Nicole Cummings thought of a way to give back.
Last September, Nicole Cummings, 21, started a new semester at the University of Missouri. Her college schedule was filled with plans and projects. A career fair, homecoming and a trip to New York with fellow business majors were on the calendar. A cancer diagnosis was not.
However, in early October, after several months of extreme fatigue, chest pains and trips to the emergency room, Nicole Cummings was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. From that moment, her life took a new direction. She had to say goodbye to plans she was looking forward to and make others she never imagined.
Nicole Cummings was quickly admitted as a cancer patient to the University of Kansas Cancer Center. Her initial diagnosis indicated she had Stage Two Hodgkin lymphoma. Within a few days, she learned that it was an advanced Stage Four, and the disease was in her bones, chest, left hip and back.
Because treatment for this disease can impact fertility, Nicole Cummings chose to undergo 10 days of fertility preservation prior to beginning chemotherapy.
“I was trying to wrap my head around it, dealing with the diagnosis and making decisions that could impact my whole life,” she says. “The hormones from the IVF and everything I was dealing with took a toll on my body and the mental aspect.”
As Nicole Cummings began her first chemotherapy treatments in mid-October, she and her family faced a second cancer diagnosis: her mother, Jamie Cummings, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Jamie Cumming’s cancer is slow-growing, but it is incurable. However, because the side effects of treatment for the type of cancer she has can be more severe than the disease itself, she is currently being tested every few months and pursuing a nutritional plan to fight the disease.
While in the midst of facing her own illness, Nicole Cummings experienced the same kind of pain and concern for her mother that her mother was feeling for her.
“When I was diagnosed, I viewed the cancer as a problem I was going to fix,” Nicole Cummings says. “I took the emotion out of it. Hodgkin’s is curable, and my goal was to overcome it. I was more objective while everyone else around me was more emotional. But when it was my mom, it was so hard. I wanted to do everything to protect the mom I love. I wanted to take the battle for her. I then saw why everyone was so upset for me when I wasn’t. I finally understood.”
For mother and daughter, walking this path together has been a journey of faith.
“It can be overwhelming at times, and it is truly an emotional roller coaster,” Jamie Cummings says. “To get our heads around it, we had to give it to God and let go. I’ve told Nicole that God has a plan for us. We must have faith and trust in him.”
At the end of March, Nicole Cummings will have completed 12 rounds of chemotherapy, though she has been in full remission since the fourth treatment in November. Along with chemotherapy, she also met with nutritional therapists and started a plant-based, gluten, and sugar-free diet.
“I believe the diet has helped me respond more quickly to treatment,” she says. “I plan to continue eating like this in the future and not like a typical college kid anymore.”
Throughout this unexpected journey, Nicole Cummings has kept her positive outlook and joy for life. She has also focused efforts on bringing that joy and positivity to others.
“Though it’s a privilege to have access to this kind of medicine, and I’m having a positive experience with treatment, I was wondering why all of this was happening and what I was supposed to do with it,” she says. I decided I wanted to do something to help other patients have a positive experience as well.
“At my third chemo treatment, an idea literally popped into my head about Cureageous Cups,” she says.
So on November 13th, in the midst of her own chemotherapy treatments, Nicole Cummings launched her nonprofit, Cureageous Cups.
Through her organization, University of Kansas Cancer Center patients receive a gift box that includes a Yeti cup and greeting card from Nicole Cummings on their first day of chemotherapy. When they arrive, the gift is waiting in their chairs.
“The support I’ve received is amazing, and I know what a difference it makes,” she says. These cups will be there in that special moment as a reminder of support that they, too, can do this.”
Since November, Nicole Cummings has started a GoFundMe and is growing her nonprofit. With the help of her family, she initiated a pilot program, Cups for Christmas, in which 500 Yeti cups in gift boxes were presented to cancer patients last December.
“Nicole has a giving heart and wants to spark joy in every life she touches,” her mother says. “I’m so proud of her desire to pay it forward and the creation of the Cureageous Cups project.”
Through this experience, Cummings has not only created opportunities to give back but also gained insights about her own life and future.
“Every day is a blessing, and I take life more seriously now,” she says. “I emphasize what’s most important and the difference I can make in people’s lives. I’m open to my future, but I know I want to help people.”
Nicole Cummings is also continuing her studies at MU online. Her future plans still include being in New York next fall for the MU Tigers on Wall Street trip.
“My professor said I get to choose the Broadway show on that trip next year,” she says.