Meet the Models, SoCal: Nicole Fischer

In January of 2022, at 44 years old, Nicole Fischer went in for her annual mammogram and was called back for a biopsy. An elementary school principle at the time, she was under a lot of stress with protocols surrounding COVID. It’s why when she got COVID herself, she hoped that by the time she was able to get the biopsy, the spots seen on imaging may have disappeared. Instead, she was diagnosed with early stage lobular breast cancer. It came as a massive blow: “it took me a while to digest, but once I wrapped my head around it I was fully in how are we going to approach this mode. I always told myself if I got breast cancer, I want a double mastectomy so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Her doctors suggested genetic testing prior to any surgery. It would be a small step that would change her life. Testing revealed she indeed did have the CDH1 gene, but it also revealed another positive ATM gene, which suggested she was at risk for stomach cancer. Hearing the news “was a lot to process,” but Nicole forged on with a double mastectomy in March of 2022. Her advocacy for the specific treatment saved her life- abnormal cells were found in her right breast, which did not show up in any imaging. In January 2023, she had a full gastrectomy. Though recovery was hard, Nicole feels grateful with the outcome: “I feel pretty dang lucky. In some strange way breast cancer saved my life because I would have never known about this other gene that would have led to another cancer with a different outcome.”

While much of 2022-23 was spent in survival mode, Nicole finds now to be fully processing the emotions and feelings all of these diagnoses can bring. While telling her children about the cancer was “one of the worst things I have ever had to do,” it also meant she got to spend lots of time recovering at home with them. It felt like a small bright spot to be able to model for her children what showing up truly means: “you want to be strong and show people you are going to show up for them, even if not at 100%, it matters to show that their mom is going to be ok.” Indeed, Nicole has shown up for more than just her family. She has been a resource for women facing a new diagnosis, which in turn, has been therapeutic for her: “ I don’t have all the answers and everyone’s journey is different, but I do know one thing: the fears, the thoughts, the anxiousness, the what ifs- everything is exactly the same. It feels good to tell people- you will be ok, you will get through this”

Overall, Nicole is clear that early intervention saved her life. It’s why she encourages her daughters and all women to self check, get yearly mammograms and receive any testing where possible because in the end, the objective remains the same: “I want to be here- I want to be here for my family and my friends. That’s the ultimate goal.”