I am so tremendously blessed to have had so many doors open for me and to have met some pretty amazing people as a result. Today, I wanted to take a little break from talking about me and my endeavors, and highlight the accomplishments of someone very dear to my heart: Nicole Evans.
Nicole & I met in high school and became fast friends. Over the course of our friendship, I learned that she is a leukemia survivor. As a result of being diagnosed and beating the disease, she has encountered tremendous success as a public speaker, teacher, and personal trainer. She is the strongest, most warm-hearted person I have ever met, and at only 19, she’s accomplished some pretty amazing things. A while back, I decided that I wanted to interview some of my awesome friends and colleagues to highlight all their wonderful accomplishments and Nicole was the first person I wanted to interview… So, without further ado… :
1. How old are you?
I am 19.
2. At what age were you told you had cancer?
I was diagnosed right after 1st grade on July 1, 2001 at age 7. 3. How did it affect your childhood self-esteem?
When I was first diagnosed, it was during the summer so I already wasn’t in school, but I was also home-schooled for a few months of the next school year (2nd grade). But when I went back to public school, it was hard. I was the only kid with cancer so kids would stare at me, avoid me, & say hurtful things, which made the situation harder than it already was. I didn’t have a lot of friends. Every now and then I’d get a “is she contagious?” It was lonely. But I walked with my head held high and my middle finger held higher during that time. After I was cured, major self-esteem problems came along. I think that’s just middle school years in general, but my past just intensified the insecurities. 4. What age were you when you beat cancer? (YAY!) AND how did it change the course of your life?
I was cured at the start of 4th grade at age 9. September 13, 2004 so this year will be my 10-year mark Cancer changed the course of my life. PERIOD. But it was my attitude that determined whether cancer would change the course of my life for the better or for the worse. After I was cured, I wanted to go back to being a “normal kid” so i refused to acknowledge I had had cancer. I was in complete denial. So it created a lot of emotional problems for me when I realized i would never be “a normal kid”. Because while the chemotherapy was done, it didn’t erase the fact that I had had cancer. My life was and still is forever changed. I was different from other kids my age, which upset me for about 7 years after. And it was a dark 7 years too. But now I don’t have a problem being different. And so it has beneficially changed my life today because now i know that I have a purpose in being alive here on this planet today.5. In high school, what was the hardest thing to deal with?
Oh boy, high school… The first 2 years of high school were awful. I carried a lot of insecurities from both middle school and my past, which led up to some major depression and anger problems along with a severe eating disorder. So to answer the question, the hardest thing to deal with was the negative voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough and I should’ve died in the hospital. That’s what I believed about myself then & it caused me to hit rock bottom. But rock bottom was a solid foundation to rebuild my life. 6. What has been the biggest difference in your life since being out of high school?
The biggest difference in my life since being out of high school is probably the ability to focus. I can focus on individual things or tasks better because i can structure a productive, balanced day now. I’m able to balance work, college, homework, exercise, sleep, & whatever else I need to do because I’m not spending 9 hours of my day on campus. 7. How and when did you discover fitness/ public speaking?
I gave my first speech when I was 8-years-old. It was during my time of treatment and I was at an event for a major cancer foundation called the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was in the audience & they just kind of said “anyone want to say a few words?” and my hand shot up! I have no idea where that courage came from to share my story to a roomful of strangers when I was 8-years-old, but I did it. That was my first taste of public speaking. For fitness, I had always been involved in recreational sports, but fitness as a whole came around when I was about 15. I wanted to lose weight so I would starve myself, then go run on the treadmill for hours. It made me miserable and I turned into a bag of bones pretty much. But while I was on the treadmill, I would walk by this big room at the gym with a huge group of people exercising together. It looked like SO much fun, but I was super intimidated. It took a few months but I finally mustered up the courage to go take a group exercise class and I loved it! I stuck with it, got my diet back on track, and then a few years later started teaching the group exercise classes myself. From there it just expanded: I started teaching different fitness programs, then personal training, then this, then that. Now all I do is workout and eat. It was a lifestyle makeover for me and I just had to pay it forward after my own personal struggles. Plus I loved having everyone’s eyes on me (laughs). But eventually I linked that together and realized that I needed to pay forward my survivorship too, which is exactly why I got back into public speaking. To touch lives with my words. I was given a second chance at life for a reason and I’m out to do something with it. It’s not going to waste. 8. What is the best thing about public speaking?
The best part? Making a difference. I think I just answered it somewhere up there, but public speaking gives me the ability to touch lives. You know this of course, Miranda! YOU have touched MY life.
( NO, I DID NOT TELL HER TO SAY THE LAST PART!) But thank you, Nicole! 🙂 9. Best fitness advice?
I have so much advice I want to share! But I would say, just from my own experience, find a workout you love. Start off doing a FUN workout that you look forward to because you won’t dread it! It’ll be easy to stick to it because you’re going to want to workout if it’s fun! And when you see results in your body, that’ll keep you going on your fitness journey to do more.
10. One thing you could tell your younger self?
I wish I could’ve told my younger self that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you stay strong. But since I can’t tell it to my younger self, I’m going to tell it to the rest of the world instead.
Follow Nicole on Facebook: Nicole Evans