It's already a long trip from Nicole Nada's home in Eureka to see her doctor in Greenbrae. Her next trip is going to take a lot longer.
Nicole is embarking on a 300-mile bike trip, beginning today in Eureka and ending at the Marin Cancer Institute in Greenbrae on May 21, just in time for her first round of chemotherapy.
What a way to arrive. She's blogging about her journey on her Kicking My Cancer website. She and her husband Garrett will post a note on the door of their popular organic ice cream shop, Arcata Scoop, informing patrons the shop will be closed during the trip.
"Why the ride? Three reasons, most importantly for myself — I love to cycle and be active and it seemed like the perfect way to arrive at chemotherapy, something I am not crazy about receiving, but know I need," Nada says. "My blood will be pumping, and I will feel healthy and strong going into it and that is important to me. Then, to inspire others if they need/want inspiration, and lastly to raise some funds for two wonderful organizations."
Nada, 41, recently had surgery after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.
Chemotherapy can tire out even the strongest of bodies, so Nada is using all her energy to complete the 320-mile trek. With her family as her road crew, Nada plans to put 55 miles under the wheels of her bicycle today before arriving at Humboldt State Park. Nada is raising funds for the Center for Integrative Wellness and Health and the Humboldt County Breast Health Project.
"Once I decided on this as our family vacation, more ideas kept coming —like getting sponsors and then raising money for the support organizations that were making the experience with cancer tolerable, and dare I say almost even pleasant. The two groups I am raising money for are wonderful assets in our communities."
Nicole's journey started at Christmas in 2011 when she found a lump in her right breast. Since she was breastfeeding her youngest child at the time her doctor initially discounted cancer.
Nicole, still troubled, pursued the diagnosis, however, and got a second opinion from Dr. David Gullion, an oncologist. In a coincidence, she was a nanny for Dr. Gullion 20 years earlier when she was living in Marin. She also met with oncologist Dr. Jennifer Lucas, with whom she attended Novato High School.
Soon after that meeting, Nicole was in the operating room for a mastectomy. That's not the end of Nicole's journey, not by a longshot.
"I feel healthy and strong and am not crazy about the fact that the chemotherapy and radiation will likely have me down for the summer and fall. I’m hoping and imagining I will fare OK, but will certainly not be able to ride 320 miles in six days during the treatment. So, in a way it is my last hurrah!" she wrote in an e-mail. 'And spending quality time with my family (husband and two children ages 2 and 5) is important. My husband and I were thinking we’d figure out a fun vacation, and one night this idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I would do it once the idea came to me. I immediately e-mailed my surgeon (since I was only a week out of mastectomy surgery) to see what she thought about the possibilities. I did not want to get too excited if she was not going to give me thumbs up. Of course my husband, an avid cyclist, loved the idea and has been a huge support and cheerleader.
"I am slightly impaired ... I had a mastectomy and 18 lymph nodes were removed so I am at risk for arm lymphedea (swelling), and my muscles feel tight in my chest, but my range of motion increases each day, and the tightness is getting better."
Nicole's ride has already attracted a handful of sponsors, including Adventure's Edge, Northtown Books, Om Shala Yoga, Arcata Scoop, Fairfax Scoop, Accelerant Design, GoPro and Luminous Robots. Contact her if you'd like to donate to her cause.
Nicole has received tremendous support since sharing her story. But she's also proving to be a source of support and inspiration for others.
"The more people I tell, the more support I get, and the more they learn which is fantastic," she said. "I have friends that have improved their diets, that went to get their mammograms, and that are being more positive about all areas of their lives … appreciating their health and abundance and celebrating simply being lucky enough to be alive."
For more information on cancer and carcinoid cancer, consider these sites:
--Bay City News Service contributed to this report.