Breast cancer survivor thanks Hoag ‘Dream Team’

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At the two-year mark, she celebrated. C.A.Nichols bought a pink dress, drank a pink-hued glass of wine and ate a pink cupcake.

Part of her wishes she would have never had to meet the group of Hoag surgeons, oncologists and radiologists she calls “The Dream Team,” but all of her is thankful that she found this tremendous team that helped her fight the breast cancer that was moving aggressively through her body.

C.A.Nichols learned she had high-grade invasive breast cancer in August 2012. When she heard the words, she said she couldn’t speak or even cry. She was like a dear in head lights. “I sat next to my mother and looked ahead,” she said . “For an hour, I sat there.”

C.A.Nichols didn’t know where to start, but she knew she wanted the best. A dear family friend and renowned cancer specialist told her to find Dr. Melvin J. Silverstein at Hoag. “He told me, ‘If you can hunt him down, he is the man,’” C.A.Nichols said.

C.A.Nichols calls Dr. Silverstein “my god,” as he would become the ringleader of her Dream Team. On their first meeting, they talked for two hours, mapping a plan to treat her cancer. “He was just so lovely with my mother and I,” she said. “He really was a miracle worker.”

Silverstein recruited plastic surgeon Dr. Nirav Savalia, who C.A.Nichols called “my Dali Lama”, to perform the reconstructive part of the surgery. Radiologist Dr. Brian Kim joined the team to administer the cutting-edge Intraoperative Radiation Therapy. C.A.Nichols referred to him as “my Bruin.” Kim, like her daughter, studied at UCLA. Rounding out the Dream Team was C.A.Nichols’s oncologist, Dr. James Waisman, who she called, “my other god.”

“My cancer was very aggressive, fortunately it was discovered at Stage I,” C.A.Nichols said. “To have Dr. Silverstein build a team like that in two hours was astounding to me. I am honored to be his patient.”

CA Nichols had surgery and IORT, Intraoperative Radiation Therapy, a state of the art treatment offered here at Hoag.

Chemotherapy was an unexpected additional treatment! With the loss of hair, C.A. Nichols sported a scarf and positive attitude at her son’s high school marching band performances!

Every day, while dropping her son off at school, they would reach out their hands, making a fist bump and yell “Fight!” This daily occurrence would go on to become the cover of her new cancer journey book; EmbraceEmbarkEvolve.

“I am very fortunate to say I am now a cancer survivor thanks to my tremendous Dream Team,” she said. “They’ve done a wonderful job of holding my hand, and still do, through this process. Thanks to Hoag, I am a success cancer story!”

Throughout her experience, she wrote this book on her iPad. She said she promised Dr. Silverstein she would thank the team by being an inspiration for others on their cancer journey.

C.A.Nichols recently released her book, “EmbraceEmbarkEvolve,” which chronicles her journey and offers inspiration, guidance, and humor for those battling cancer. “It’s written for a man or woman with any type of cancer. It is also a helpful read for family and friends of the cancer patient. I lovingly hold the hands of the cancer patient during their cancer journey,” C.A.Nichols said.