'My mind was positive while my body was fighting to stay alive': Meet breast cancer survivor and fundraiser, Nicole Freeman

By Emily Usher | 21 March 2024

10 years after her life-changing triple negative breast cancer diagnosis, Nicole Freeman, a dedicated fundraiser for Cure Cancer, reflects on her journey and how overcoming the disease ignited a newfound passion for running. 
Breast cancer survivor Nicole Freeman at receiving treatment at hospital

Nicole on her first day of cancer treatment. She discovered she had breast cancer symptoms and was subsequently diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at just 32 years old.  

Nicole's breast cancer symptoms

Nicole Freeman was just 32 years old when, in 2014, she discovered a lump in her left breast. Although Nicole had been feeling run down, she never imagined that within 4 days, she would be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. 

Nicole’s doctors broke the news that not only did she have 3 tumours in her breasts, but that the cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes. She was told to brace herself for aggressive treatment, and would need to start chemotherapy immediately in order to save her life.  

Overcoming gruelling breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer survivor Nicole Freeman at hospital

Nicole mid-cancer treatment. Despite everything, she never lost her optimistic mindset.

For the next 8 months, Nicole’s world revolved around chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatments. She then needed to undergo 18 months of hormone replacement therapy.  

“It’s the tough times that people didn’t see that I think back on,” says Nicole. “The times my husband held my hand after I had a code blue (heart stopped). When my body wanted to give up even though my mind was fighting to stay positive and telling it to push on. It’s the small, cumulative losses during chemotherapy – losing my hair, my nails, my eyebrows, taste sensation, circulation in my hands – that made me look and feel like a sick person, despite my efforts to maintain a semblance of normalcy. Those things can really affect someone’s mental state, on top of the hardship of what the body is physically enduring.” 

Despite her gruelling breast cancer treatment, Nicole always worked hard to keep an optimistic mindset. “Throughout the countless tests, poking and prodding, I felt positive about the future. I was determined to beat this,” she says. “I had a strong support network around me and access to a great medical team. Unfortunately, not everyone battling cancer is as fortunate.” 

Becoming a breast cancer fundraiser

Nicole’s illness gave her a new perspective on life, and a few years ago, she and her husband discovered a shared passion for running. Since then, she’s become an active participant in events such as City2Surf, which she ran in support of Cure Cancer. "What sets Cure Cancer apart is its commitment to funding research for all types of cancer, not just breast cancer," she says. "Raising awareness and crucial funds for research to support others navigating their cancer journeys - especially those without financial and location-based means to access quality treatment like I received - is important." 

Nicole’s employer, Microsoft, has also been extremely supportive of Nicole’s journey and fundraising efforts. "I’m really fortunate to work for a company that has a robust platform for volunteering and donating funds. We collaborate closely with Cure Cancer to give back and I want to express my gratitude for the incredible support I received years ago. It’s a fulfilling full circle experience - my initial connection with this charity was personal, and now I have a corporate platform to contribute."

Life after breast cancer

Breast cancer survivor Nicole Freeman at a fitness event. Her husband holds up a Cure Cancer t-shirt.

Nicole and her husband have both taken up running on behalf of Cure Cancer.

Almost 10 years on, Nicole is in remission, and absolutely thriving in life. "It makes me smile today hearing about how much treatments have improved, and the significant impact of funds raised for cancer research. Innovations such as cold caps, which help retain hair during chemo, and advanced life-saving treatments are the tangible results of fundraising efforts."

"Cancer in any form is a heart-wrenching experience, affecting not only the person with the disease, but those around them. Let’s collectively make a difference in the fight against cancer wherever and whenever we can."

Feeling inspired by Nicole's story? There are many ways to get involved and make an impact on breast cancer research!

You can find out more about symptoms of breast cancer, breast cancer treatment and breast cancer screening here