Cancer Does Not Define Me

Tyrone grad Nicole Ellenberger-Bagley has been bravely battling cancer since 2012

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Tyrone alumnus Nicole Ellenberger-Bagley ’95 was only 34 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Six years later, she is still fighting cancer and surviving.

Nicole’s journey began on a cold March day in Arkansas. On March 30, 2012, she had a routine mammogram scheduled. Having no reason to suspect bad news, she went to the appointment by herself.

Nicole is someone who smiles through the good and the bad no matter what. Her smile and positive view on life are inspiring. She is a fighter. ”

— Tara Welsh

After the mammogram, the technician asked her to stay for an ultrasound. The radiologist that read her ultrasound asked her to come back and told her that he wanted her to see a surgeon within the hour.

Devastated by the news, Nicole didn’t know how to break it to her dad, husband, and kids.

“I called my husband once I left and cried the whole way to the house. My husband said he would bring the kids and they would all come with us. They were off for spring break. That was the start of several tests and then finding out I had stage three cancer,” said Bagley.

Since then, Bagley has undergone bilateral mastectomies, chemo, radiation and a hysterectomy due to carrying the BRCA2 gene. She was re-diagnosed in October of 2016 with cancer of the spine, in January of 2017 to the left lung, and in December 2017 to the brain.

Nicole’s kids were very young when she was first diagnosed; her daughter was eight, her son was five, and her youngest son was three. The younger two didn’t really understand what was happening and her youngest boy really didn’t like seeing her without hair, telling her she looked like “an old lady.”

One of Nicole’s biggest supporters is her dad, who had been through breast cancer previously with Nicole’s mom, who passed away at age 40.

“He has rooted me on throughout my journey,” said Bagley.

As a whole, Nicole’s family has been her inspiration to keep fighting.

“They are my will to survive and keep going,” said Bagley.

Nicole has endured many treatments and surgeries to attack her cancer. She has had chemo, radiation, mastectomies, a hysterectomy, radiation again on her lung, again on her brain, and brain surgery.

Although cancer has been a long grueling fight for Nicole ever since that cold March day, she refuses to let it win without a fight and wakes up every day with a positive attitude.

“I have learned to live with it and continue the fight,” said Bagley.

Nicole’s brain surgery was her most recent. It required a long incision to remove a large tumor. They had to close the incision with 26 staples.

As for now, Nicole is still healing but feeling better daily. 

“Surgery was tough, but chemo was tougher. Brain surgery was also very tough. I was in the hospital for four days and lost most of my memory. It’s slowly coming back and I am doing better,” said Bagley.

Her family, friends and the community have all pitched in to help Nicole and her family.  She has had many people bring her food, gifts, and money. She has even had a walk and a dance in her honor.

According to her good friend, Tara Welsh, Nicole has always been a fighter and a positive person.

“Nicole is someone who smiles through the good and the bad no matter what. Her smile and positive view on life are inspiring. She is a fighter. I mean she did name the tumor “Earl” and Earl is going down with a fight!” said Welsh.

As far as advice goes for any person or family going through breast cancer, Bagley says “Never give up, keep going and keep living.”     

Nicole cherishes each and every day as a blessing and will never let breast cancer define who she is as a person. She lives her life to the fullest and tries to set examples for those around her.

“Breast cancer does not define me. It makes me stronger. I am all about living my longest and strongest life,” said Bagley.

Breast cancer does not define me. It makes me stronger. I am all about living my longest and strongest life”

— Nicole Bagley

Print Friendly, PDF & Email