Cancer Patient Staying Positive for Her Family and for herself

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Nikole Baldridge is taking her cancer journey in a positive manner and sharing her experiences in a journal on Facebook. (Linda Moody photo)

ANSONIA–Nikole Baldridge has been battling breast cancer since last Halloween, and even though she’s had some issues, she is trying to stay positive and seems to be doing a pretty good job of that.

She wanted her family, especially her two children, to adapt to what was happening to her.

The single mother has been writing a journal on her path to healing and she will still be sharing her experiences to readers as she enters another stage of that battle. It’s informative and it lets other people who have cancer or not, on how to cope with life.

Her diagnosis? Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and ductal carcinoma.
A website noted that invasive ductal carcinoma, also known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma, is a type of breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts of the breast and moves into nearby tissue.

“Ductal carcinoma may be either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or invasive ductal carcinoma,” the webpage read. “DCIS is a non-invasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct and have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer.”

Baldridge completed chemotherapy recently, having undergone Red Devil treatment for two weeks and Taxol treatment for 12 weeks.

She just learned this week about future treatments.

“I am scheduled for surgery on July 11,” Nickole said. “The last week was filled with doctors’ appointments to figure out what the next steps would be. Last week after meeting with my radiation oncologist, I was told that I will have at least 25 rounds of radiation for sure but could possibly be 30. I won’t know if it will be more until after my surgery. I got my ultrasound results from my oncologist and it hasn’t shrunk much more since the last one I had. That was hard to hear because hoping chemo would do more but at least it did some of what they wanted.”

She has been told that she will be doing medication for the next 10 years of her life.

“So one step down and a few more to go yet,” she shared. “It’s been a long process getting to where I am right now but I know I still have a long way to go. So for right now, I am just trying to rest and enjoy the kids before I have surgery. So I will take it one day at a time and continue to remain positive.”

Nikole Baldridge is happy to keep her two children involved in her life. (Family photo)

She discovered a lump in her breast one day while bathing. It was her only symptom as she had not been experiencing any pain.

“When I wash up, I usually use a loofah but I used a rag that day,” she said. “I called my family doctor, Dr. Harshbarger, that same day and he referred me to surgeon Dr. Kara Schultz, who set me up for a biopsy at Wayne HealthCare. I got the results on Thanksgiving.”

Her first treatment was on Jan. 23 at the hospital’s Cancer Center (down the street) and after that at the hospital.

“The first one made me nauseous but they made adjustments to my medicine, and it was better after that. I did get tired though after many of the treatments,” she said.

The hair loss that usually accompanies cancer with the chemo treatments began in August.

“It was after my second Red Devil treatment,” she recalled. “It started falling out in clumps.”

So, it was decided she would cut off all of her hair, and guess, who shaved her head? Her 5-year-old daughter Hadley. Now, she can’t wait until her mother’s hair grows back.

As for the haircut, son Mathieu, 14, didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

“He has been very quiet,” Nikole said

Nikole went to the Cancer Association of Darke County to get her hair supplies.

“I thank Holly for going with me and being completely honest with how they looked. Even if she wouldn’t have said it, her face showed it,” she said in jest. “So I found some cute scarves and wigs and so thankful we have a place like that. I had to do chemo at the hospital because the cancer center was having to be remodeled but it was amazing there. Everyone was so sweet and it took a little longer but it was all worth it and so happy I will be finishing out all my chemo with them.”

She got perturbed one day when she went shopping at a Cosco store in Centerville, while her mother was having back treatments at a facility down there in that area.

“I went to the counter, showed them my membership card and the cashier accused me of having someone else’s card, because the picture showed I had long hair,” recalled Nikole, who was wearing one of the scarves at the time.

The clerk still wasn’t going to let her make the transaction.

“So, I went to the manager and he apologized for her,” Nikole said. “She didn’t apologize.”

Nikole is currently on leave from her job at CVS Pharmacy in Greenville, where she has worked for 10 years. A 2003 graduate of Ansonia High School, she is the daughter of Debbie Hammontree, with whom she and her children reside, and the late Dana Newman, who passed away in 2015 as a result of colon cancer.

She has learned that a lot of CVS customers have had or have cancer.
Her advice to others in her situation?

“Listen to what the doctor says. As for nutrition. take care of yourself. Take one day at a time and stay positive.”

The family loves to do special activities which includes some travel. They have gone to Maryland to visit her brother, Jeremy Hammontree. They went to  Washington, Pa., Hershey, Pa., and even got to watch an Orioles ballgame.

On one of their special trips, Debbie Hammontree and daughter Nikole Baldridge visited Nikole’s brother, Jeremy, and had a great time. (Family photo)

“Every summer, we usually do vacation,” she said. “We were supposed to go to Florida in April, but canceled it. If we could go every weekend they would.”

She has been journaling on Facebook of her experience with breast cancer and its effects on her.

Yes, she is even sharing the path she has been dealing with the children as well.

“This whole thing has been an educational experience for me,” she said. “I could have visitors with me at my treatments. The kids went, Mom went, cousin Holly Abel and friends Natalie and Dusty were there. It’s helpful having people there.”

Mathieu and Hadley would go but could not be in the room with her.”
She said she even showed them the port that was placed on her torso, and it will be there until further notice.

They were even there when she rang the traditional bell following her final chemo treatment. The children were even with her on her final treatment of chemo.

Nikole Baldridge is shown here with close family members on her last day of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Shown are her mother, Debbie Hammontree, daughter Hadley, and son Mathieu. In the background is the bell Nikole rang to mark the end of her chemo treatments. (Family photo)

“That was very special to have my kids with me when I rang the bell,” she said. “Not only did I ring it once, I did it twice because I forgot to video the first time. All the nurses made it so special, and I couldn’t have asked for better nurses. They are the main reason I made it through like I did, and there isn’t enough thank you for them. I am actually so thankful that I got moved to the hospital for my chemo.”

Life is getting somewhat normal for Nikole. She attends her children’s activities; Matthieu’s football games and Hadley’s dances. In their spare time, she said, they visit their two pigs at her aunt Cheryl Keaser’s home. Mathieu is showing them at the fair.

Her children, Hadley and Mathieu, often visit their pigs, which he will be showing at the county fair. (Family photo)

Otherwise, she is having body aches.

“It’s better if you’re having activities,” she said. “I was drained during and after those treatments.”

Has she always been positive through this?

“For the most part, but I was a mess at first…grouchy because I didn’t know what to expect. Then I knew I had to change. And, I felt better when I learned my breast cancer was the most common and easier to treat.”
She added, “It’s not only been hard on me during all this but it has been some days on the kids. They have been really amazing with it all and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

She expressed appreciation to everyone who has been there for her through all of this.

“You don’t know how much all this support has meant,” Nikole concluded. “Now on to the next steps!”