Family Reach CEO Carla Tardif reflects on 2023 and calls for community support before the year ends.
Balancing Cancer, Family, and Finances: Nicole’s Story
Photo: Nicole and her family captured by Adriene Marston
“If I pay the rent, then I won’t have a dime left for groceries, utilities, or my car insurance and loan. But if I don’t pay the rent, is my landlord going to understand what I’m going through?”
Going through cancer treatment is enough for any of us to handle — yet Nicole and so many others are faced with impossible financial decisions on top of a demanding medical journey.
Nicole is a mom and real estate agent who can beat pretty much anyone in a game of Spades. When she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the treatment schedule, side effects, and health concerns made it difficult to work.
Nicole explained, “If I don’t close deals, I don’t get paid. I’m a single mom so there is nobody else to rely on … how was I going to make ends meet?”
Navigating financial stress during cancer treatment
When treatment began, Nicole’s new routine centered around multiple medical appointments each week. She spent several hours in the car getting to the treatment center, which meant extra dollars went toward gas.
“I recognized right away that I was going to need help,” Nicole remembered. “I was concerned about caring for my family while still giving my attention to treatment … it’s a very stressful balance to strike.”
As a single mom to three children, she would do everything in her power to keep her family above water. Financially, that meant making the difficult decision to hold off paying her rent so she could buy groceries and pay the utility bills. She got her teenage daughter to dance rehearsals because she wanted to maintain some normalcy for her children. Nicole tells us it’s been difficult for them to watch her go through this, but they’ve been incredibly helpful and resilient through it all.
“Sometimes we let our pride get in the way and we’re understandably protective of what we’re going through — but a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. I knew there had to be help out there and I’m so grateful I found Family Reach.”
Our support allowed Nicole to focus on what matters most — recovery and family. We helped her pay for rent, food, and utility costs so she could drive her daughter to dance rehearsals without sacrificing the gas she needed to drive herself to treatment. She kept the lights on without worrying whether she could put dinner on the table.
“The reprieve — even if it’s just for a month. When you don’t have to worry about your bills it allows you focus on getting well,” Nicole shared.
Financial support that extends to community
Nicole shared her story at last year’s Fall Flip, an annual fundraising event in Boston. Her words inspired dozens of participants who flipped tires to raise money that would support families like her own.
For Nicole, the inspiration was mutual. “I feel blessed to have connected with Family Reach. And not just because of the financial support, but for offering me the opportunity to share my story and show others the value of seeking help.”
That day, Nicole met a young man who was recently diagnosed with cancer and preparing to start his own treatment journey. He had no idea the event was being hosted that day, so their meeting was a chance encounter. After she spoke, he came right up to her to express how encouraging her speech was. Since then, they’ve stayed in touch to share updates with one another.
“Had I not shared my story that day, I would never have formed that connection,” said Nicole. “Don’t ever think that you’re on this journey alone! There’s always someone there willing to listen and organizations like Family Reach who want to help.”
Continuing the cancer journey surrounded by support
After recovering from a stem cell transplant, Nicole is pleased to share that her myeloma is in remission. However, she is still receiving maintenance chemotherapy indefinitely twice a month to prevent a recurrence.
This means Nicole can’t return to her usual routine and working hours, so she’s staying cautious about being in crowds and managing her money carefully. Still, Nicole says she’s “holding on and doing her best.”
And as she said before, she’s not on this journey alone. Family Reach is rooting for you, Nicole!
As Communications Coordinator, Mary creates and promotes content that spreads the word about Family Reach’s mission. Mary brings her love of storytelling to her work, and a commitment to a world where socioeconomic status doesn’t determine chances of survival.
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