Last year, in the beginning of her sophomore year at Champlain College, Nicole Towne was having migraine headaches she thought were from stress. In class, she could not see the whiteboard and had difficulty taking notes, which had never been a problem before. Even though her second year of college had just begun, she felt like she was already failing. She was in constant contact with her parents, who suggested seeing an eye doctor. Out of despair, she signed out of college, came home, and took their advice. That is when the real story started. The eye doctor, finding the back of her eyes in stress, sent her to a neurologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, who ordered an MRI. Soon after, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was rushed to the ICU to be monitored and treated. Her pediatric neurosurgeon was Dr. David Bauer, who performed the biopsy.
Nicole started walking in the CHaD HERO many years ago with a team called “Ya Rest, Ya Rust” that her grandmother walked with. She totally enjoyed doing something for others and raising funds for CHaD. When she began, the CHaD HERO was trying to get a world-breaking number of superheroes on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover and she loved being a part of that. Nicole eventually transitioned to participating in the hike, finding it enjoyable to walk along the trails. The 2018 CHaD HERO took place right after she was admitted to the ICU, and she was sad she would miss it. So, with her family’s help, she got her t-shirt and bib and walked around the ICU on CHaD HERO Day to justify the donations made in support of her walk. It was a very proud moment for her supporters, her family and the staff in the ICU.
The diagnosis of a brain tumor was a shock. At first, they thought that Nicole would only need radiation, but they quickly learned she would need to start chemo right away and then would need to go to Boston to get proton radiation every day for five weeks. Nicole, her mom Lynn, her dad Everett, and brother Ryan bulled through the sometimes dark days of treatment.
Nicole and her family have a fabulous support system… really quite incredible. Her parents’ employers, along with friends and family, started a fundraiser, her cousin Becca created the logo “NicoleStrong,” the name of her CHaD HERO team this year, and t-shirts were sold as part of the fundraiser.
A recent MRI shows she is now in remission. Nicole knows that this result does not happen for everyone with a brain tumor diagnosis. She will forever want to give back, as so much was given to her. Her family and friends look forward to hiking with Nicole on Team NicoleStrong at the HERO this year!
CHaD is very near and dear to Nicole. She even used her pic line scars on her arms to get her very first tattoo – Morse code for “Strong” and “Survivor”. She is both of those! And, she is back to Champlain College!
– Robin, Nicole’s grandmother