‘Brave and fierce’
Fundraiser Thursday for Island woman battling cancer for second time in a year
The past year has seen Karen Nicholson’s world turned upside down.
About a year ago, the P.E.I. native was beginning her career as a registered nurse in Toronto while also planning her wedding to then fiancé Taha Abbasi.
Today, the 28-year-old is in the midst of her second battle against leukemia, a fight that includes intensive chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant from her brother.
For many of Nicholson’s friends, the young nurse was the last person they would expect to be diagnosed.
“Especially being so young,” said friend Samantha Hughes. “She was always very healthy, very conscious of what she eats and doesn’t smoke or drink. She’s pretty well the last person you’d expect to go through this.”
Nicholson grew up in York, P.E.I., before moving to Toronto after high school.
She was back home on P.E.I. for her bridal shower last August, with her Toronto wedding planned for that September.
However, just two days after the shower, Nicholson was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and was quickly transported to Halifax’s Victoria General Hospital for treatment.
While in hospital, Abbasi kept his word to marry Nicholson.
They tied the knot in a small wedding ceremony facilitated by the hospital’s spiritual adviser.
“Her husband made the promise when she first got sick it would still happen… and it was beautiful,” said Hughes. “It wasn’t what she had expected … but it was still incredible.”
Just two days after her wedding, Nicholson also found out her cancer was in remission.
Although she had to remain in hospital for about four months, she was discharged to P.E.I. at the end of December.
She then returned to Toronto in February to plan her honeymoon this summer with hopes of returning to work in September.
Hughes said unfortunately, Nicholson received word in June that her cancer has returned.
In an update to friends and family online, Nicholson said it took a while to wrap her head around the situation.
“I have realized, however, that nothing has changed since I began this journey. I still have to take it day by day, not look back and do my best to listen to my body,” wrote Nicholson.
“I have a team that consists of more than nurses and doctors; it starts with leaders like my husband and parents, my close family and best friends, extended family and friends of friends and family.”
Even after receiving a transplant, Nicholson will have to live in a separate apartment due to her weakened immune system.
“It’s a pretty long road ahead,” said Hughes.
It has also been financially tough since Nicholson has been unable to work while her family has spent much of the time staying in different provinces to support her.
A GoFundMe started by Hughes last month, named “Karen’s Leukemia Fight,” has raised $13,300 of its $15,000 goal.
Hughes and several others have also been selling “Team Karen” bracelets and shirts this summer.
They’ll also be holding a fundraiser Thursday at The Pour House above the Old Triangle from 6 p.m. to midnight.
The event will feature live entertainment and a silent auction and will kick off a raffle for two WestJet tickets to anywhere the airline flies.
“As a close friend to Karen for many years, I can tell you she is the first to help out anyone else and the last to ask for help herself, which is why I’m doing in on her behalf. She is determined, strong and one hell of a fighter,” said Hughes, noting all the money raised will help Nicholson’s family’s travel accommodations and supplies for home care as well as Nicholson’s student loan.
While Nicholson has been “brave and fierce in her fight,” Hughes said she also has admiration for her friend’s goodnatured spirit throughout a difficult journey.
“She makes the nurses laugh and doctors laugh, she stays so light and focused,” said Hughes. “The admiration I have for her strength and courage while maintaining her good natured spirit throughout this difficult journey is indescribable. She is my hero.”
P.E.I. native Karen Nicholson poses with her husband, Taha Abbasi, after their wedding in Halifax, where she was being treated for leukemia. Just two days after her wedding last year, Nicholson found out her cancer was in remission, but it has since returned.
P.E.I. native Karen Nicholson pets family dog Skye shortly before getting married in Halifax last September. Nicholson had planned to marry Taha Abbasi in Toronto, but the couple made alternate arrangements after Nicholson was diagnosed with leukemia.