Always a fighter: Chordoma patient takes on multiple crusades

Colin and Nicole Carter
Nicole Carter with her husband, Colin.

Nicole Carter has always been a fighter. She enjoys role-playing games where she slays dragons. She’s been known to be stubborn. But, on top of all that, the 26-year-old is in her second battle with chordoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

At the age of 20, Nicole was first diagnosed with sacral-based chordoma at SCCA. At the time, proton therapy was unavailable in Seattle so she traveled 3,000 miles away from home to receive proton therapy treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Getting back to her “normal life” after treatment was difficult, she says. And, unfortunately it was not over.

In March of 2016, Nicole was diagnosed with a recurrent mutated form of chordoma in her left sacroiliac joint, not far from where her first tumor was. She is back at SCCA receiving treatment from Dr. Lee Cranmer, where she says she receives individualized care and has a deep connection with her care team.

“I trust Dr. Cranmer and my whole team to make the right decision to save my life,” she says.

Currently, Nicole’s treatment plan is exclusively chemotherapy. She and her husband had traveled to SCCA at South Lake Union every Friday for her treatment. They had dubbed Fridays as #fightlikeagemfridays – a hashtag homage to one of their favorite TV shows, Steven Universe. The cartoon show is about crystal warriors who fight to save the universe and Nicole has compared the characters’ fight to her own battle against cancer.

In addition to the hope and support Nicole receives from her husband and family, she gets a sense of triumph when she plays Dungeons & Dragons, one of her favorite role-playing games.

“When I am in the game, and I am slaying dragons, I feel like I am killing that cancer.”

It comes as no surprise that Nicole will be participating in the 13th Annual Northwest Sarcoma Foundation Dragonslayer Walk in Seattle later this month. Dragonslayer is a community walk held to honor sarcoma patients and survivors, and to raise money to fund programs for the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation.

Nicole and her family have formed the team “Carter’s Cancer Crusaders” – the same name they used to walk at other events for her step-father who passed away from lung cancer. She has had concerns about her mobility since she currently uses a wheelchair, but will be at the event to speak publicly about her experiences and to share her story with others.

“I’m a strong, stubborn, one-in-a-million, sacral chordoma butt-kicking warrior.”

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