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Jessica Nicholson

The 9th of February 2013, the day my life took a dramatic unplanned deviation!

It started off as any other normal Saturday. My mom-in-law had flown in from the Eastern Cape earlier in the week, so we decided to take her and the kids to the beach for the morning, we had a business meeting with my new planner who was helping me work on putting my new range together, and then onto one of my dearest friends Tammy’s 30th at Beach Bums for the afternoon.

As soon as we walked into the place I instantly felt uncomfortable. Sim and I are real home bodies, so bright lights, loud music and drunk people every where is not something I’m used to at 4pm in the afternoon! Sim asked me if he could get me something to drink and I said I would start off with a Tab because I was feeling a bit off. When it was time for a refill, things got really strange... he asked me what he could get me and I said I couldn’t remember what it was called and I couldn’t remember the waiters name.

Sim and I have been together for 17 years so I would say he knows me pretty well, he could sense something wasn’t right so suggested we go outside and get some fresh air. I started making sense again and we could see the snacks had arrived so thought I was probably having a sugar low and better get some food in me. I sat down next to my other bestie Cher and she asked me to pass her a mushroom and I passed her a piece of chicken, then a piece of calamari, I was not processing words and my reactions were really throwing everyone off. As she turned to look at Simon I fell off the bench and had a grand mal seizure, something that had never happened to me before. I completely blacked out.

I woke up very disorientated about 4 hours later in the Alberlito ICU, with Sim at my bedside. He had to explain what had happened to me. Thank goodness there were 2 paramedics at Beach Bums that evening, and Cher has an epileptic mother so knew to call the ambulance straight away. As the ambulance arrived I had another seizure so they sedated me.

My mom who used to be a nurse was in Cape Town visiting my brother, she insisted that a neurologist come and see me that evening and do a CT scan before they give me any more medication. My mom flew home on the next flight available and was there in the morning to hear the news that the scan confirmed the beginning of a nightmare, unfortunately my drink had not been spiked (what we had all been hoping was the case), but that there was a mass in my brain with lots of inflammation around it and would need emergency surgery.

Dr Nad Govender the amazing neurosurgeon was called in and he had me transferred to St. Augustine’s Hospital that Sunday. I was kept heavily sedated most of the next few days. My surgery was booked for the 14th February, Valentine’s Day, not a very romantic day! My family all rallied around us so well, my brother-in-law flew in from Mauritius, my brother up from Cape Town, father-in-law and youngest brother-in-law from the Eastern Cape, all to keep my two young babes feeling secure, being emotional support for Sim and just keeping me feeling like I was so loved and treasured.

The surgery confirmed our worst fear the tumor was cancerous! Dr Nad didn’t give too much away, but just said it was serious and would need treatment as soon as possible.

Sim has always taught me to try and keep calm and stay positive, I never once was scared or nervous through this whole ordeal. I think when you have kids, you don’t have a choice to think about it, and you have to keep on fighting. I was also under the impression that the surgery had removed most of the tumor and it would be easy to treat, technically the cancer had been removed.

Boy was my world about to come crashing down! Sim searched hard trying to find the best oncologist to treat me. We met with Dr Rory Callaghan the week that I was discharged from hospital. I will never forget that meeting, he was so blunt. He basically said that I had a Glioblastoma Multiforma grade 4, there is no cure for this type of cancer and it’s not a matter of if it comes back but when. I remember walking out his rooms and feeling crushed, all I could think of was leaving my one year old daughter and three year old son without a mother, and my soul mate alone to deal with it all.

Thank goodness for our amazing friends and family. Our best friends Craig and Kimi came over that night, made us an amazing dinner had a good laugh with us, my mom-in-law was still here to take care of the kids, helped organize us an au pair with my brother-in-law. Pete, said brother-in-law was also amazing at setting up a page for us on gofundme. He had the vision to foresee the huge financial costs that came with having brain surgery and having to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. We are on medical aid, but there are always short falls. We would also need to put systems in place to help me recover and the shortfall of me not earning an income.

My mom was also amazing; she came through every day from Ballito to drive me around (I wasn’t allowed to drive for 6 months) and helped me wrap up my business. She still comes through just about everyday to see me!

Warwick Wright a long time friend of Sims went out of his way to organize fundraisers in Durbs and CT that were supported so well beyond what we had imagined. We were absolutely humbled by the support. Also a group of our musician friends put on an amazing concert at Factory Café, again just making us feel so cherished by our community.

I now count my blessings everyday! I’m lucky that I married my childhood sweetheart, I met Sim when I was 13 and I turn 30 in a few weeks, we have been together for more than half my life. I often think of how great it is that we met so young, and know each other so well, in fact I think Sim knows me better than I know myself sometimes!

Every now and then we get emotional about the whole ordeal, but we hold each other tight and it all feels okay again. I’m also trying to take in as many precious moments with my kids, I always doubted the decision to start our family so early, but in hindsight we wouldn’t of had them if this had happened first! I want my babies to know who their mommy is; they are now my reason to fight so hard. We are trying very hard not to take things for granted and really trying to take care of our health.

I think I have been able to stay so positive because I know that life is so unpredictable.

When you are faced with death (I know this is a macabre way of thinking, but trust me there is no way of ignoring it once you have what I have), you start to question things in life, like why are we here, what is the point to all this, how am I going to die, etc. and I’m starting to realize that you cant over think life, no one has the real answers, its about what feels right, what you make of your time here, now, with your family and friends.

I feel like this has been a warning to really start living my life. Nobody is guaranteed anything in this world, so to wake up each morning and treat each day as an absolute gift is the only way forward for me.

Jessica Nicholson 1983-2014

Jess Nicholson tragically passed away in March 2014 at the age of 30 years.
May she Rest in Peace

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