Dena's Journey: Triumph Through Trials with Support and Strength

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During difficult times in our life, it is often the support we receive from others that helps us pull through. For Dena Nichols, her journey with cancer was not only a test of her personal strength but also a testament to the importance of having a strong support network from family and friends to medical providers. As a patient of Health Services of North Texas (HSNT), Dena found not only the supportive medical care she needed but also a community that stood by her side through every step.

Dena's journey with cancer began with uncertainty and fear. Initially misdiagnosed with an ear infection, it took months before she discovered the truth about her condition. The news of throat cancer was terrifying, stirring fears of not being there for her loved ones. "It was scary," Dena recalls. "I pretty much did it on my own by thinking of my grandkids and great - grandkids and my daughter-in-law and my kids." Despite the daunting road ahead, Dena drew strength from her family and resolved to fight with everything she had –and it was not a battle won easily. From enduring grueling treatments to grappling with the emotional toll of the disease, Dena faced each challenge head-on. "I was sick a lot. I slept a lot. I couldn't eat," she shares. "There were times that I hurt so bad that I had accidents, and if we went anywhere, I couldn't stand long and didn't realize it at the time and would just pass out on the floor."

Despite the challenges, Dena's perseverance and positive attitude never wavered. "Everybody says I'm the strongest person they know. I didn't believe it until I fought it," she reflects. "Even my mom would tell the family, 'Y'all need to go and see her. She's not doing well.' But I kept fighting, because I knew I had to." Her journey took a toll on her physically. Through the intensive chemotherapy* treatments, she lost nearly half of her body weight, dropping from 140 to a mere 88 pounds. "I looked like a skeleton," she recalls. "It was hard to recognize myself in the mirror." Despite the drastic changes to her body, Dena remained determined. During one particularly difficult moment, Dena asked her husband to shave off her hair when it started falling out—a symbolic gesture of taking control amidst the chaos of cancer treatment. "It was tough," she recalls, "but having him by my side made it easier."

Amidst her physical struggles, Dena also battled with anxiety, a common side effect of cancer treatment. At one point, she was on fifteen different medications to manage both her physical and mental symptoms. However, with the support of her healthcare team and her own determination, she has now reduced her medication regimen to just one pill.

Through it all, HSNT was there to support Dena. "I was a patient here," she explains. "The routine visits, the familiar faces—it all provided a sense of comfort during a time of uncertainty." The care she received at HSNT not only addressed her medical needs but also provided well needed encouragement. "The nurses here are amazing," Dena says. "They've been there for me every step of the way, helping me navigate through the toughest moments."

Today, Dena's journey serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of community in times of need. "You're stronger than you think," she advises those facing similar challenges. "Find a support group, reach out to someone you can talk to, and never lose hope."

In her most recent visit, Dena received encouraging news—she has been in remission since October, marking a significant milestone in her journey. And despite the hurdles she's faced, she's gained ten pounds back.

In addition to her strength and resilience, Dena has a sense of humor that shines through even in the darkest times. Finding joy in the little things, Dena keeps a Halloween skeleton decoration on display in her house year-round, dressing it up in various outfits and wigs. As she continues her journey forward, Dena serves as an inspiration to us all, reminding us that with strength, perseverance, and the support of those around us, we can overcome even the greatest of obstacles.

*While HSNT does not provide chemotherapy treatment, we do serve as the primary care provider