She was 25 years old and pregnant with her first child—the picture of health, happiness, and the potential of life. But Nicole Davis had no idea that she’d developed a relentless form of cancer that was, in a cruel twist, aggravated by her pregnancy.
Nicole Davis was sitting behind the Wells Fargo drive-through window, counting cash and processing deposits, when she noticed her cell phone buzzing on the counter. Each time she turned to pick up the phone, another car pulled up. She tried to focus: The lunchtime rush at the Littleton bank meant a long line of cars snaking in from the intersection at Bowles Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard. The phone buzzed again. Nicole knew it was the hospital.She rested one hand on the tight, round dome of her belly. It was January 20, 2009, and Nicole was 25 years old and almost six months pregnant with her first child. Her round face, blue eyes, and thick, long, blond curls brought to mind “The Birth of Venus,” the Italian Renaissance painting by Botticelli that depicts the Roman goddess of love and beauty emerging from the sea.
Nicole had dreamed of being a mother since she was a little girl, and, like all mothers-to-be, she’d wanted everything to be perfect. She’d perused the Babies “R” Us website and registered for her baby shower, poring over fabric and paint hues for the nursery, and she’d carefully read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Her high-school sweetheart, Tyler, whom she’d married six months earlier in the flower-filled courtyards of the Terrace Gardens, a special events center in Ken Caryl, was just as excited. As soon as they found out the baby was a girl, Nicole’s tall, broad-shouldered, football-loving husband began talking to the belly and laying his head on her stomach to listen for signs of life. Nicole decided she wanted to name their daughter Abigail, which one of their five baby name books explained was Hebrew for “father’s joy.”
A third missed call yanked Nicole from her reverie. She grabbed the phone, heaved herself off the stool, and her co-workers took over for her at the drive-through window. The bank’s break room was less than 30 paces, but it felt like a mile. With each step, she whispered to her belly: It’s going to be OK. We’re going to get through this.
Eight days earlier, during an exam at the Kaiser Franklin Medical Center, Nicole had pointed out a painful lump that she’d noticed in her left breast. Her doctor ordered an ultrasound. She reminded herself that breast changes during pregnancy were normal—more than one doctor had said that—but the ultrasound revealed an “inconclusive” mass. One week later, a doctor inserted a strawlike needle into her breast to extract a small tissue sample, and Nicole signed a form giving the doctor permission to share the biopsy results via phone.
Now, leaning against the table in the break room, Nicole listened to the message. It was the surgeon who did her biopsy. He said it was “extremely urgent.” Nicole suddenly felt twice as heavy, as if she were filled with lead and fixed to the floor. She willed herself to walk to the manager’s office. Her boss took one look at Nicole’s pallid, terrified face and guided her across the room to a large desk chair. Nicole sat down and dialed.
“I’m so sorry to tell you this,” the doctor said. “But you have breast cancer.”