Time for bRUNch with Shelby & Christine

TFB Quick Bytes - Niki Kozak, Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Survivor shares her story

May 24, 2023 Coach Shelby & Coach Christine Season 1 Episode 82
Time for bRUNch with Shelby & Christine
TFB Quick Bytes - Niki Kozak, Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Survivor shares her story
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Show Notes Transcript

Hello, friend,

In this Quick Bytes episode of Time for bRUNch we are joined by a fellow member of the bRUNch bunch Niki Kozak, a survivor of metastatic melanoma cancer.

Niki shares her inspiring journey of resilience, hope, and witty humor as she recounts her battle with melanoma.

She discusses her initial reaction to the diagnosis and its emotional impact on her. Niki shares the treatment options she pursued, the physical and emotional challenges she faced, and the role of her support system in her healing process. She also talks about how her cancer diagnosis affected her running routine and how she adjusted her mindset to continue pursuing her passion.

Niki highlights the importance of skin cancer awareness, sun protection for runners, and early detection through regular skin checks. She shares her experiences as an advocate for skin cancer awareness and provides information on resources and support networks available to those affected. Head over to Niki's website and blog to learn more about her story and the phenomenal resources she makes available to others. 

Throughout the episode, Niki's story inspires listeners to find strength in their journeys and support one another within their community. 

Thank you for listening! 

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Shelby Schmidt:

Hey friends, Coach Shelby and coach Christine welcoming you in and letting you know it's time for brunch quick bites edition, where you can grab your miles with the sight of smiles. Take them on the run midday in the afternoon or a late night snack attack. So let's have some fun, whatever your activity of choice is today, or maybe you're just driving along, we're happy to have you. And we have, as always a very special guest here at the brunch table welcoming a fellow brunch, brunch member. And well, you're gonna hear a really incredible story today. So without further ado, we are introducing Nikki co Zak, a metastatic melanoma cancer survivor who is here to share her story about overcoming the odds and providing skin cancer prevention tips for runners as we prepare to go into those hot summer training, even though these are great practical tips for all your RAM. So without further ado, Nikki, we are so excited to have you here today. Well, thank you for having me, especially it's melanoma Awareness Month and it's brain tumor Awareness Month. So it all kind of go gray and may or wear your black in May. Because that's bringing attention to it all. And wear your sunscreen all the time. 365 right. 365 all the time. I mean, I'm sure the damage was done when I was a child. So if you have children put sunscreen on your children.

Niki Kozak:

I I agree. We were Oh yeah. squirming in all hotel pieces. Don't you just spray them no matter how much they scream just take it away from their eyes.

Christine Hetzel:

Oh no, I'd take the if there was a big debate of it was suntan cream or suntan lotion. I call it suntan lotion. So yeah, we we lather up and we're greased up pigs at the end of the day. Yes, that exactly is the way I say it. So you're welcome listeners will let the layers a little bit here. And while we are super prepared to get all the tips, and we wish we could turn back the hands of time and maybe I would not have gone into those indoor tanning booths. But I'm gonna I'm gonna say that the damage may have been done in that regards, but we want to make sure that we are prepared moving forward. Let us know Nikki a little bit about your story if you could, if you could bring us up to date on it.


Oh, well as short and dirty since this is a quick bite is I was heavy into running and cycling best shape of my life. I have 42 years old. I think I was at the time. I had I had run a marathon, my first marathon and I was injured during that time. So I got into cycling and I was riding my bike every single day. I drove into work as a radio DJ in the morning during the morning shift live, brought my bike with me figured nothing was wrong. I had no idea anything was going on. It was spring was April. So I thought maybe I was having some allergies because I was having a little trouble breathing when I was writing the hills. And at 815 on a Friday morning. I went catatonic and my morning show partner called my husband and he said has Nikki ever been so angry with you that she just stopped talking to you. And then I fell out of my chair and he goes, nevermind, I have to call 911. And I just thought I didn't know anything. I mean, I didn't know anything was wrong with me. I had just gotten up and gone to the bathroom, and come back to my chair. So as far as I knew the world was totally normal. And I woke up, I looked up and I was looking at a first responder who was trying to put a neck brace on me and I just kept insisting I did not want to wear that neck brace. I didn't know what the problem was. And it's a strange thing. I don't know if it was the location in my brain that the tumors were happening in. But I really gave zero. Let's keep this PG crap. About what what was happening. I had just no idea I kind of feel sorry for the guy that had to ride with me in the back of the ambulance because I was asking all kinds of questions. I was super talkative. So I've never been in an ambulance before. Do they all have that stuff on the ceiling? What is that? What is this? What is that? And he was trying to get my name my age. You know, all my emergency contacts and I just was just a babel beast at the time. So but yeah, I got like That's funny. Not funny because I'd be I know I was just like super talkative. I was like, people pay me to talk. I'm the DJ, this is what I do. So but I yeah, I got to the emergency room. I was gonna say plus this your stress response like I probably was, yeah. I mean, I had never been in an ambulance I was super curious to so. But yeah, they they did a CT of my brain and saw something in there. Then they dragged me down the hall for an MRI, which I was so out of it that I don't really recall either of those things happening. My husband and my son were there, they remember more about it. Apparently, I had another seizure at the ER when they told me I had brain tumors. Again, might have been a stress response, but I wasn't I was kind of and but yeah, come to find out I went down to USC because the neuro surgeon up here. First of all, he's like 75 years old. So I was not going to have them cutting into my brain. No offense to 75 year old men, but I don't want sharp objects in my skull. If they're in your hands. Somebody's a little younger. Yeah, who that's funny. All right. So yeah. So my husband said, no, no, we're going to LA and I actually had my first brain surgery, which you to get the vision at the denture in my head that listeners won't get that but I had that 11 days after ending up in the emergency room. And the the biopsy of that showed that it was melanoma. Now I had had a previous one removed from my right shoulder in 2006. It was a very early stage melanoma. And I was told, quote, it's all gone, you're cured, you don't need to worry about this anymore, you have about a two to 4% chance that this is ever going to come back. The story didn't really end there. knew it was that was 2007 when I had it, take it off my shoulder. And it was 2013 when I had a seizure and fell out of my chair. So really, you shouldn't be seeing a dermatologist. I mean, my my family doctor said, Oh, no, you know, we can do the skin checks and the physicals and all of that, but you have to advocate for yourself. Because I mean, I thought I was going to be okay with that. And every six months, I saw my family doctor. And apparently it was not, it was not enough. And I was either the most unlucky person in the two to 4% odds that it would come back or something got missed and overlooked that really should have been further looked into. So I want to point out Nikki that we are going to be pointing people towards your blog so that folks can see that the photos that maybe they're not, they're not able to see here on the podcast, because you've got, you've got quite a few different images. I think also in your blog, what sticks out to me is the fact that you just hit on it, that you don't necessarily 100% cure this type of cancer, it is something that you need to be more aware of, you need to, as you mentioned, be able to advocate for yourself, get those regular checkups with the specialists that know best. So at this point, that sounds like something that if folks are rolling through here, or maybe they want to add it to their to do list, take a quick moment to make that specialist appointment with a dermatologist just for a check in and then make it a little bit more of a regular date. I mean, I think seeing the dermatologist is probably the the least painful way of baring it all. I mean, we go to the OBGYN and we might as well go to the dermatologist. Right? Right. I would rather go dermatologists any day of the week. Oh, me too. Yeah, I mean, they call it a toga party now in the melanoma world that's like, Hey, I got my toga party today and you're putting on your humiliating gown, but I was like, hey, at least it's not the scooch scooch Doc, I don't I did. I call it this scourge. Could you scooch down a little further. Could you scooch down a little further. Could you scoot it down? It's like it's good. Scooch appointments are far less comfortable than the daily I'm never referring to a GYN ever again. That said my Scrooge Scrooge diary checks that zone where my dermatologist does not he doesn't look in that area. He leaves that to gynecology. So that actually is a really good point though, because especially depending on your exposure, you know, there's different parts to get exposure. So as you can see or look for the high the high traffic areas. I don't know that we can talk about the scooch constructor and high traffic areas my friend, it might be a high traffic area, it's just not exposure. It might be that I'm trying to give people all the information might be more traffic than any area let's we're gonna reel this back where this was part of it. Okay, as falling into the gutter, we're gonna bring it back, we're gonna bring it back, we're gonna bring it back to the cycling. So you are an avid cyclist or an avid runner, I was just gonna say real quick, there are areas of your body under your fingernails, the bottom of your feet, places that don't typically suntan or get sun exposure that can get melanoma, particularly if you have had one anywhere on your body. Any lower level one anywhere, it means your body has a propensity to put this forth so it can happen. So have your hairdresser check through your hair on your scalp. Look at the bottom of your feet, you know your body better than anyone else. If something is changing, growing, getting darker, looks different. Just make note of it and pointed out to someone. Oh my gosh, thank you for saying that Nikki. Last year, I had my first bout with a little with a skin cancer and I would have been that person who would have swore to you that never ever, ever would I have it because I'm Hispanic heritage. Nobody in my family has ever had it. And while I'm pale because I have weighed the sun. Now I have a brother natural olive complexion. So I just assumed that it wouldn't be something that I would necessarily have to worry about. And exactly as you said it ended up popping up in an area that doesn't necessarily have as much sun exposure, it was in my lower extremity. And I was kind of floored by it. And I think another really good reason to think about it friends and getting in with those dermatologists is that if you wait until you have an area of concern, it can take a long time to get on with those dermatologists versus having that regular checkup and having that regular relationship with them. Yeah, yeah. I mean, sometimes it's, I mean, it's up to a year around here, because we have so few we're just not I'm in a rural area, and it's hard to come by them. So I mean, if you pointed out to your family care, doctor, whoever you have, I mean they could do something about it. They can at least send it off for pathology. And then yeah, if it's something a dermatologist needs to take further care of or dermatological surgeon, then you're in the door with dermatology and then it's just follow up appointments that are a lot easier to track. But yeah, I mean, it can it can happen anywhere on your body to anyone. So you definitely need to sunscreen up and and take care of it. Oh, and there's no such thing is safe tan by the way. There are people I know there are rumors out there that say, Well, you should get a base tan, it's protective. No, if there is any color to your skin that is not the same color as your booty, or the palms of your hands is the wrong color. It should be you should be a uniform color. That said I do do guilty I have some shorts lines from my running shorts. Because I just I just yeah, there's a certain amount of time where at some point the sunscreen is gonna get beat. I mean, it's 50 SPF, but if you're out often enough, so but my dermatologist said he would rather I have a very light tan line because of running than to be sitting on the couch and being pasty white. And you know, not getting in the the effort and the exercise that builds a strong body and keeps your immune system on edge. Or we can always faux tan like tan and a bottle has come a long way from what it used to be it's oh my gosh, then your palms will be orange. You use the right yes. Well, you wear those gloves or something. Yeah, that's an Ain't nobody got time for that latex glow I just learned to live with everything. Well, I want to I want to reel it back for a second because I think a really poignant portion of the story. So you went and you got some of the melanoma removed in 2007. And then it doesn't seem like there was any warning signs, any other pop ups, anything like that until you got to the seizure portion. Right? Yes, that's that was exactly what happened. Now, the difference between a stage one A which is what I was told that I had on in 2007 and a stage three are whether there are lymph nodes involved or not. And the only way they know that is to test the lymph nodes. And they won't do that if they say something was shallow enough. They won't test for it. So I never actually had my lymph nodes tested. So the only other trouble that I had was in 2010 No 2012 I wrecked my bike really hard lost a lot of skin. So I went in and got a tetanus shot. Well I got the tetanus shot in my right arm, which is the right shoulder is where I had the the melanoma removed. And I got a third boob grew in My right armpit it swelled up so badly that there had to have been, I mean, I actually went to my doctor for that. And I was like, there's a lot of swelling here is this normal from a tetanus shot? And he said, I can't be with some people, you know, just take over the counter pain meds. And it was six months later that I ended up having my seizure, they found out that I had a golf ball sized tumor in my right lower lung lobe. So the lymph nodes in my right armpit, were very likely affected with melanoma already. And it had gone from there into my right lung, and then eventually up into my brain. So it took I mean, it took six years until I finally fell out of my chair five and a half years, until I fell out of my chair. But all that time it was actually invading, and I had no clue. Just none. It's it seems like a lot of like a cavalcade of errors, basically, unfortunately, it seems like there were things that at that point, you didn't know how to advocate for yourself. And quite frankly, I don't think the majority of the population would would know to to question or advocate to get the care that they do need. So I, I, I think it's an important portion to know that skin cancer and melanoma isn't always as neon lights of like, hey, something's going on. And to really, no pun intended, dig deeper into okay, this is happening, what are the next steps? And being a questioner in all honesty? And if the questions don't get adequate answers to, to have to take that upon yourself to find how to get adequate answers, which again, your blog has a wealth of information? Absolutely. You have so many great resources here. There are, there are places on social media that you can go if you've even been diagnosed with the lowest level of skin cancer, and you think this is no big deal. You can just ask people questions. What did they do? What did they think they should be doing? Is there something further that they should be testing for is there when I got it? I mean, I thought, okay, it's melanoma. So you cut it off the skin and it's gone. I mean, I was that I don't want to say stupid, ignorant, I guess would be the word that it could spread inside. And oddly enough, we actually knew of a man whose son died at 32 of metastatic melanoma. And it just when I got it, I thought, Oh, well, mine wasn't this, whatever this metastatic is, it was just on my skin. And it's like, well, yeah, the difference between on your skin and metastatic is the stuff that grew on your skin, then spread in throughout your system. And that's, so it was, it was a whole education that a lot of, you know, nobody wants to default to well, this is probably a lung tumor. You're like, Well, yeah, here's your allergy meds. Or, you know, well, I'm having a headache. Yeah, but I also get migraines. So is it a migraine? Or is it a brain tumor? I mean, you don't think in your life, especially at 40 to 44 years old that, hey, I think I might have a brain tumor, something seriously wrong with me. And while you don't want to live paranoid you also once you have confirmation that there's an issue, follow through on it and just make sure that you know your body and you know, when something's it's not right, I mean, we teach ourselves to ignore our bodies and our pains as runners. I mean, you okay, you're being a wuss, knock it off. But at some point, maybe you're not being as was you have to learn how to tune in when it is just your mind playing tricks on you. Yeah. So in an in an effort to, cuz I think really, at the end, we just a lot of us, and I'd say most of us are just ill informed. And we're not taught these things. So while we are glad that your story had a happy ending, how has it kind of changed the way that you approach your outdoor activity? And what type of precautions do you take now that you wish people would take currently before they'd have to walk a similar path to yours? Make sure you take care of your kids because that's that's where it could start. I had blistering sunburns as a child. I mean, I was the teenager where the Coppertone baby, you know, he pulled it and I didn't tan I would burn. So it was burned and brown burn then Brown. When my sister came in to visit me at the hospital after my first brain surgery. She goes oh my gosh, your legs are so strong and tan. Oh, I'm so jealous and I thought you are are aware that I'm sitting here having melanoma removed from my brain, I should not be this tan. But I was I was, I was a lovely dark shade of brown because I thought, well, they took the melanoma off, I don't have to worry about it. So I was out riding my bike, I was out for hours a day, in the sun doing everything. So once I had the diagnosis, I went into incident paranoia, and I, I wanted to live like a vampire, I didn't want to go out in the sun, the best times to be outside or before nine or 10am. Between 10am and about three or 4pm, that's when the sun is at its peak, that's when it's at its strongest. Your clothing can do some level of protection. It's better if it's something of a tight weave, it doesn't necessarily have to be up if clothing. Although that is available, it tends to be more expensive. But any most lycra is pretty, pretty tight. We've basically if you hold it up to the sun, and you can see light through it, it's less protective. So if you hold something up to the sunlight, and it's a total block, you're doing okay, you're doing better, you should still wear thin layer sunscreen underneath. And just make sure you're in the shade as much as possible. You reapply the sunscreen after two hours. If you've been sweating like crazy, maybe even sooner if you really are susceptible to burning, just in take care of yourself, but you can still enjoy being outside wear your sunglasses wear hat wear, you know, I don't like having sunscreen on my face. So I tend to wear hats a lot. And if you're on the water or the snow, get that extra reflection. So you have to watch under your chin and everything that kind of burn even your ears. I actually had something scraped off the top of one of my ears, it was not a melanoma but it was a basal cell or something that had to be taken off. Because just being outside with a baseball hat on the tops of my ears were getting more sun than I was aware of. So there are ways you can protect yourself and still fully enjoy being outside. I mean, I live in California, you guys are in Florida, the beach is a thing. We just that's what we do. And I mean, you just you don't want to wreck your love of the outdoors. Because now you want to live like a vampire. There are still like exactly what you said, getting in there before the sun's at its highest peak, which here in the Sun Belt anyway, you need to do that regardless, just so that you don't have a heat stroke with how hot it is. So all the way around these practices kind of carry over into each other to helping you stay as healthy as possible. So getting out with those running groups early in the morning, so is great. As you mentioned, I kind of like the second you mentioned that hat I think what kind of chic beach hat can I definitely add to my like Amazon wishlist. Oh, they're right. Fabulous. Those wide brim. I actually have a runner here that she always has one of the wide brim hats. And every single time I see her, I always I always think like he's so smart. Is she running in it in a wide room? Yes. Really. It's a big okay. Again, I'm in like South Florida where beach Central. So it's not like wickery type of wide brim. It looks fabulous. I'm just saying to have safety but make it fashion. Talking about when you went through this. It wasn't long haul it didn't happen where you went into treatment. And it was it was a very long haul. How did you and I know you have in your blog and you've written about it how it became your new normal cancer life became your new normal? Did that change your training? Did it change your focus of your training? I know that you also have some links about how to live as healthily as possible. Can you expand on that? I ended up walking everywhere. Because when you have a seizure at least here in California, I'm sure it's probably true throughout the United States, you're not allowed to drive for six months. So that will make a person go insane. Especially someone who's active and my husband was you know, he had to go back to work he wasn't comfortable with me being on my bicycle by myself. So I would go out and I would walk in if you've ever seen the bike lane. I started naming those those people that they paint in the bike lane on that the stick figure on the bike, I started calling him chug along Charlie and I used to talk to chug along Charlie every time I would pass one and I'd be like that's it I'm gonna be riding over your face. In the next six months I will be riding over your face again. So get ready for it Chuck and I just it was just trying to get out and be a normal person and not be offended when people say Oh, you just you just had skin cancer. So like, what's the problem like, well, not just skin cancer. And I don't know, just just trying to you notice the beauty in the world when your life has been threatened, you noticed more beauty around you, which ends up being a double edged sword, because then you really don't want to let go of that beauty. But you do, you need to take it in and somebody put it online recently, I think it was one of the brunchers put something on on Facebook about noticing little bits of beauty like bites of beauty around you. Notice, I don't know, when a little kid smiles at you, you know, in, in a passing car, or where as much as we hate for it to happen in our own driveway where a weed or a dandelion or something comes up through the crack and you're thinking you're gonna destroy my driveway. But at the same time, it's like, wow, nature is so powerful to have been able to do that. That's, that's gorgeous. Look at that shade of yellow, oh my gosh, and now I'm gonna pluck it from my driveway. But it's really super pretty. So you just, I don't know, you have to take in those those small moments because we don't all get those grand standing in front of the Grand Canyon kind of moments. But you get a lot of little ones during the day that if you notice them, they can offset the garbage that's going through your life, like I have to drive back down to LA to get an infusion or, you know, yeah, I might need another brain surgery, I might need more brain radiation I might need whatever. Just just taking in all those little pieces and building your new life. Because that's it's part of what you're going to do. Now you're going to go to doctor's appointments very, very regularly. And I mean, it's, it's better off, if you can prevent those doctor's appointments. But just enjoy what's around you and enjoy the fact that you can get out. That's interesting that you say that there is this book called The Power of art based off of the research that actually finding on our every day is what it takes to help you get through chronic pain or pain or difficult times in life. And like you said, it's kind of a gratitude practice, but even a little bit more. So finding out like you said, and that dandelion weed. So I appreciate you sharing that that's absolutely such a great point. Well, especially as runners, because you guys, you guys will tell us, you know, we get to do this, you got to reset your mind for him, we get to do this. And while you're out and you're thinking I get to do this, that's that's when there are those little moments of all, little mouse running through the field of you know, bird up in the tree screaming at you as you go by anything. I mean, those are just that's the time to absorb and notice those kinds of things. And it's really a shame that we have to have those gut checking realities to reel it back to that simplicity. But, again, it it really is true. And it's very easy in today's world, to see the good to make the appointment. And I know I'm guilty of saying that I am busy, I don't have time for XY and Z. But it all kind of wraps itself into the same mindset of enjoy the little things, take the time for your health, take the time to enjoy the dandelion, the nature and everything and really kind of stripping life back down to the basics. And it is very deep and philosophical. But it is the truth and even like as runners again, we get to do this. No one's making us so it's yeah, it's a healthy reminder to not get so caught up in life that you don't really live and enjoy life. Exactly. Yeah, we we ended up finding that. It used to be work, sleep, shower, repeat. And that's not how it is anymore at all our time is so valuable to us now that it's like if you really don't want to do something, right. Don't make yourself a hermit because I'm already a hermit by nature. But you know, if you really don't if you don't want to do something, we learn to say no. I mean, it's easy to do when you have the excuse of sorry, you know, I just had brain surgery last week or I have radiation tomorrow. It's easy to say no. But yeah, no one's gonna argue with that. Yeah, exactly. If cancer card. It's the table. But yeah, you just you have to learn how to, again advocate in your best interest for for not tabling not taking on so much. Don't volunteer for every parent thing going on at the school don't You don't overload your plate if you don't have to. Otherwise, you develop a dark sense of humor. I feel like this originally started as an awareness of cancer. But now I feel like we're just getting life lessons from Nikki like this is, this is so much power within the words that you're saying, especially I think, as we start to embark on summer, where it could be a very overwhelming time for parents where kids are back at home, and maybe you're out. So from the one thing that you have to say yes to is sunscreen. And everything else can wait is what I say yes to your kids, because you only have them for so long. My son is 32 now and you only get them for so long. And man, when they learn to drive, you never see them. You try and teach them to be independent, grown up people. And then they turn into that and you just go well, where'd my baby go? Because now I want my needy little child back. And I that's not going to happen because he grew up into this strong independent person. So it's just, again, life lessons. You didn't? Yeah, I just. But I think that's a testament to to who you surrounded yourself with? Because it seems like you've not only went through all of the health stuff, but it really seems like you changed a lot of how you live. Where did you have a really strong base when you were going through all this? Or did you learn to say no to certain people and, and really make your own community from there. I had a lot of our writing group, because I was we had a cycling club that we were riding with. And so I mean, we were surrounded by all of those people in those friends, because they were all pretty shocked and pretty scared themselves. Because, you know, we would regularly go out for four hour bike rides and beat all of us out in the sun all day. And so they started wondering, you know, can it happen to me, because Nikki's one of the strongest youngest members of this group and what happened? So yeah, I mean, it's it's one of those things where it's like I did, I had a very strong support group, my son and my husband, came down to all of my early appointments, my husband has never missed an appointment at all. And we also have a very warped sense of humor, which, if you end up looking at my blog, you're going to notice a lot of that, and I don't mean to offend, if you can, because some cancer patients are a little more sensitive than we are. I don't know, my husband would ask if, if they could, when they did brain radiation, if they could target the less mouthy section of my brain, like so the second time I ended up having a seizure, it was the left half of my face and my left hand. And I couldn't speak because I had no control over the left half of my face. And so when we went down for the follow up appointment before I was gonna get my second brain surgery. He goes, You know, I felt a little bad. I felt like oh my god, they actually hit it. They made her less. There it is. And he goes, I feel a little guilty about that. But as I say, I mean was also calling me brain fried Betty. So one of the gifts that I gave to my team was I made them apple cider. It had a lot of vodka in it. So it was it tasted like apple pie hot apple pie. Mix and I put brain fried Betty's hot apple pie, cider. And I said, you know, it'll cure all that. What else? Yeah. And I put a picture of a brain in a pan frying because everybody down there knew that he called me brain fried buddy. And I mean, people just were like, wow, I can't believe you say that about your wife. You're lucky you're not getting smacked. I'm here for the dark humor. Like I'm I'm all about dark humor. I said that to her last night. I was like, you are going to be like fast friends. Michelle, do you guys have a sense of humor? Well, after listening to the Mother's Day thing, I am a lot like Shelby's mom your mom. I was just like, yes, yes. Oh my gosh, yes, me too. Me too. Long glass twinview. We also started talking about how elephants evidently are matriarchal society. And the minute that I was like carrying all these facts about it. I was like, Oh my gosh, it's like Shelby's home like it's like, it's just like this like, herd of powerful women and like just to kind of follow the leader of the wisest woman ever. So anyway, Nikki, let's bring it back to you did in your blog, tons of great gifts, tons of funny memes. There's no doubt or is quite a bit of levity to really deliver this incredibly powerful message of self advocacy, being aware of protecting ourselves protecting little ones, or maybe not so little ones in our lives. All of those things are definitely prevalent in there. But another aspect is prevalent is some of the things that maybe you did that set you apart because I think that from what I'm hearing you say it went from 4% chance of it returning or becoming more severe to when it was finally diagnosed when it had permeated and kind of an I hate to use this word, but it's kind of like, insidiously taken through your system, your chances of survival at that point was 4%. And I have to think it's because of your healthy lifestyle, your positive attitude, all those things, and some great doctors and medicine kind of helps you along. Would you say that there are factors that you can kind of credit with helping to increase your odds of survival? Yeah, definitely the fitness for sure. Because any kind of cancer you're going to be diagnosed with, the treatments can be thinking me rough. I never had to have chemo, I was fortunate to have immunotherapy, which is now starting to take off for other cancers. It's no walk in the park. But it's also not chemo. The idea of chemo is it destroys cells. And whether they're healthy cells or their cancer cells, it doesn't distinguish. Immunotherapy ramps up your immune system to take care of it. When I was diagnosed in 2013, Keytruda, which you see TV commercials about all the time now was in trials. But because I had brain tumors, I was not allowed in the trials, which I understand the these companies, they want to get this stuff out to market, and they have to prove it works to get it out to market. So if you've got people with brain tumors who have a 4% chance of survival, you don't want your drug going into them and having them die on you anyway, because then it makes your statistics look worse for getting it out to the public. So while I was upset about that, you know, we needed to take care of the brain. And then I got on Keytruda. And it it, it worked out for me it worked very well. I mean, like the 15 to 35% of people that it works for. But you know, part of it is it's you have to have some joy in your life, because stress will make cancer worse it stress weakens your immune system. And if you're on immunotherapy, you really want your immune system, working and functioning. Getting exercise and getting fresh air will actually help your immune system. So, you know, having people around you that support you and care about you, even if they're, we call them mela homies. Because there's a group online that are I mean, they're all people with melanoma, whatever different level they've had. And, you know, we support one another. And it's kind of like the brunchers. I mean, you've got brunchers out there. And you get to know these people and you care about these people, whether you've met face to face or not these people are your your friends, and you know them and you hear them. And so yeah, when when something goes wrong, if you've had a similar experience, and you can relate to what they're saying, and you reach out to them. That's a healthy connection to have. So I mean, not to give people another reason to listen to time for brunch, but it's another reason to listen to time for brunch, and get to know your fellow brunchers. And get to know each other on social media, just because you you already have the similarity of wanting to run and do better for your yourself and getting fit. So why not? I mean, now you're gonna support each other on a new level, you're hitting on my love language, not just because you're talking about brunch, but because you're talking about, I swear, it's not just because you're talking about how fabulous brunch is my love language of really increasing your support network, increasing your connection, because at the end of the day, that connection with others is it's I mean, it's just proven to really help in so many different ways. And that's quite, quite a big marker of your story is as again, as I go through your blog, you talk about like your connection with your your medical team, your connection with your doctors, your connection with your husband, even the inside jokes, all of those things relate or as you call them, your mela homies, all of these things, kind of helping you to move forward as positively as possible. Which brings us to the next question that I have you given us? A lot to think about. You've given us so much wonderful advice. But what's next for Nikki? Like, what do we see? You said that you want to be able to say no to the things that don't necessarily serve you in creating those boundaries, which allows you to open up to say yes, what do you want to say yes to next? Wow. I kind of got everything. I mean, my husband just my husband just retired. Oh, congratulations. I mean we shall be so greased pigs with sunscreen. All I'm thinking is bake and so your team's savories what I'm hearing a greasy pig is bacon. I can't help it. Well, that said My husband will make Make these deep chocolaty pancakes that I love to eat to. So I'm Team food. I will eat anything. But yeah. Next for me, let's see. Well, I just did my second marathon, it took me 12 years in between I did one pre cancer and one post cancer. So 12 years of aging in between was difficult enough. Losing a lung lobe, made it an extra challenge. So I mean, I really didn't set any goals other than to have fun. Just have fun with it. I will never do it again. Oh, I wanted to make sure I had some fun with it. Can't say no. I don't see myself ever doing it again. Okay. Yes, that would probably be the better way of phrasing it because you just literally never know. But okay. Congratulations on that. By the way. It was so fun watching guys. It was so fun watching your training journey. And again, another way that you like inject positivity even on the runs that may have been where it was embracing the suck a little bit. You still had a lot of fun with it from outside looking in. So thank you for sharing that. Yeah. So the I don't know next for me, I already signed up for the Santa Barbara half marathon. They don't I don't think they do a full anymore. But they have a half marathon. It's in November. I signed up for the moment that I could, because I know I really enjoy that distance. And that's what I wanted to do. My bib number is number nine. I was that early for sign up the ninth person to register. So looking forward to that did November Yeah, I'm gonna look like I'm supposed to be fast and they're gonna see this old lady trot and down the road and go What's up with her? How did she get such a low bid number? No, they're gonna say look at that. Bad mamma jamma I was gonna say another word but a bad ass. There you go. Yes. Take a lot of asphalt for sure. So yeah, looking forward to that. And like I said, my husband just retired in March 30 years of federal service, launching rockets out here at Vandenberg. And he's also got his retired Air Force, which will be that that pail start rolling in and when that does, we'll be spending even more money and time. I don't know we would like to do some more national traveling. We've been all over Spain, there's a little bit of Spain we still want to see. But nationally, we still want to see some of the more hiking kinds of things. I'd like to go to Bryce Canyon I would like to see the Grand Canyon again. I haven't seen it since I was 10 just kind of fun travel stuff that's still exercise he I guess want to see an Olympic National Park and just kind of those sorts of things. Oh, we're going to Yosemite to in October so we've already got that on the list as well. So my my October and November are booked but other than that, yeah, maybe see CR kid more now. Where is where's kid? Is he in California? He lives about six hours away from us. He is but California has he's he's six hours away. So if we were in New England, he'd just be you know, might as well be in Tennessee is just that. But so yeah. And then my husband is also an instructor pilot so we have a little airplane and we can we want to adventure in that kind of like old people adventure in their RV we want to adventure in our little linear class. Oh, goodness. So lots of fun is on the agenda and you're stimulating the economy is what I'm hearing like there's you know, you just have the opportunity we will be stimulating the national park system he can qualify for the don't they have like a federal benefit for the national parks where you get like a discount to get into all of the national parks. You know, I'm gonna look into that. I thought I was a designated couponer here. But Plus, he's retired military retired Air Force so so thank him so much for his service. I'm so excited to hear that. Okay, so traveling and more movements since movements medicine and it definitely keeps you healthy and happy seeing kiddo. So I think that friends what we're hearing from Nikki is that that should be all of our to do list is the things that like make your soul happy and make you a little bit extra pep in your step. And hopefully that's what the running but if that's something you have to put on the back burner for a little bit, find a movement that that quite literally creates as much joy and happiness as we see Nikki sharing on her face right here with us right now. Nikki, before we go ahead and bid adieu, we are again going to point people over to your blog because you've got so many great resources but what kind of takeaway advice besides just living your best life would you want to give folks? Wow, okay, well from a cancer patient perspective, don't ever or when somebody tells you they've been diagnosed with something don't go Oh, my aunt had that she died. Don't ever do that to a person didn't like don't you would be shocked how often that happens. Oh, my grandma had that she died. No, if you know somebody who died of the cancer that they had shut your mouth. Just don't say anything say I'm sorry. I don't know what to say and walk away. I mean, I would rather somebody not hear it than then to hear. The reason I even started my blog was to give people more more the upside more than dark humor side more than the cheerful side. I hate to say that the cheerful side of cancer but because you hear and read so much about it's it's a horrible, horrible thing to go through. Everybody knows that. So let's try and bring a little levity into life. So yeah, don't ever say that the one one piece of advice as a cancer patient. Other than that as just a human being. You know, if you can't get out for a run, and you need some strength training, I've got 15 tonne of rock that we just shoveled into the side of the driveway, if you want to come out here with a bucket and help me carry it up the hill that would be fabulous. Living in your house a strength training advice, deep clean your house, you can get plenty of strength training out of that. And then you get to look at your wonderful landscape or your very nice clean house. And again, those small moments of all you clean your floors is a miserable horrible thing. But you know what? You just got to work out you burn some calories. And you now have a gorgeous floor. So sit down on a chair and look at your floor and when your significant other asks you what in the hell you're doing. You go, I am admiring a job well done. Look at how that shines. I mean look at that. And don't step on it. Take your shoes off. I think all of that was roundabouts to yellow, here's your other half to walk on your beautiful floors. Oh my goodness gracious. Okay, so we've learned so much Nikki mainly that we want you to come back into chat with us again, because it was so much fun hearing you kind of weave us through your own journey. But also leave us through not just advice on if you have a diagnosis that can be so life changing, but how to really, really truly live in our best days, every single day. So thank you for that. With that said, friends again, use that link in Episode Notes head on over to the blog that we posted. But of course, specifically head on over to cancers new normal.com with Nikki story because she's got a whole lot of resources. And some of the best memes I feel like I feel like I got called out on some of these memes on this blog. So you're definitely gonna want to head on over there and get a good laughter too. I mean, can't go wrong with Spongebob Squarepants in a unicorn. So that said thank you again, Nikki, for joining us today. Well, thanks for having me and everybody put on your sunscreen when you get out for your run today and just know you get to do this. That's right folks, it indeed is a privilege that we get to do. Thank you so much for joining us for today's quick bites. We look forward to having you come back and join us again this Friday for a time for brunch runners etiquette edition. And in the meantime friends we're gonna keep serving up more miles a with a sad smiles