Cancer Can't Change That
By Rula Al-Nasrawi
Andrea Nugent is a mother. And a foster mother. And a children’s book author. And a three-time cancer survivor. Nugent was 39 years old the first time she was diagnosed with cancer. Five years later, and she’s still fighting both cancer and epilepsy—which she's also had for years. Despite years of treatment, Nugent has always managed to maintain her sense of self through motherhood. Long story short, Andrea Nugent is a warrior queen. She even recently rappelled off a building for charity. I’m telling you, serious warrior queen alert.
“We all have obstacles, we all have limitations, but we can’t afford to sit and let our limitations define our lives. I’d rather get up and redefine my limitations by living my life,” Nugent said. “I just do whatever I want to do and create beautiful memories with my son. He said he wants to see the world, so I’m trying to make as much of that happen while I’m here.”
Nugent was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, and was in remission by 2011. However, by October 2012, the cancer had metastasized to her liver. While it cleared for a short amount of time, the cancer is now back in her liver again. Nugent says she has not let any of this phase her.
“I live each day without worrying about that,” Nugent said. “I don’t live my life like ‘I’m going to die.’ I live my life like ‘I just want to live.’”
Nugent says her son was always her biggest concern. Symptoms and physical changes were all secondary to that.
“When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t really think about changes. The most important thing to me at the time was my son,” Nugent said. “It wasn’t my life flashing before my eyes it was his life flashing before my eyes.”
Into her first few weeks of chemotherapy, Nugent began going through the physical changes many chemo patients experience. She says that her son was there every step of the way.
“He’s seen me lose my hair, he’s seen me gain weight. Because of the steroids, I gained 40 pounds within three to four weeks of starting chemo,” Nugent said. “I was looking in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize myself, and I wanted him to know that no matter what, I’m still here and I’m still mommy.”
Nugent took her own experiences with her son, and wrote a children’s book. The book, “Mommy is Still Mommy, Cancer Can’t Change That!” has now circulated worldwide.
“It was designed to be a conversation started because a lot of people feel that it’s such a scary topic,” Nugent said. “I’m a big promoter of including your kids in your journey, sharing what’s going on with him, because no matter how young they are, they know something’s different. They know something’s going on. You can reach them on their level.”
Nugent’s inner beauty sprang from putting in more time as a mom.
“I’ve never really been into materialistic things or vanity, but I was a hard worker working crazy hours, and it took getting sick to slow me down and spend more time with my son,” Nugent said. “I felt newer, improved and changed. And beauty was secondary to that.”
Her advice to anyone going through cancer and chemo and drastic life changes, is the simple shift of perspective.
“Life doesn’t end the day of diagnosis, because I think people win or lose their battles at that very moment,” Nugent said. “It’s just like when you get up every morning, you have a choice to make. Is it going to be a good day or is this going to be a bad day? It’s all about your choice.”
Nugent’s choice to look past herself and live for her family, to get up every day and do things like snowboard and repel off buildings, is a gift she has cultivated all on her own.
“At the end of the day, there’s no way that I’m every going to stop fighting. I have my son, I have my foster kids, there’s just too much to fight for,” Nugent said. “Cancer can take my body but it will never take my mind.”
Follow Andrea on Twitter @AndreaNugent.