What Happened to Abbey's Mom

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.

August 2011

Sometimes, Nicole demanded explanations from God, saying she didn’t deserve this, that her daughter and husband didn’t deserve it. Other times, she took comfort in what Uncle Ted said: that God had a plan, and while they might not understand it, they could choose to trust that in the end, all would be well. As Nicole stood in a private prayer room one Sunday after church, a group gathered around her.

“We pray for Nicole and her family,” they said. “We pray for healing.” They anointed her with oil and appealed to Jesus. Nicole closed her eyes. She felt as if she were being carried. After days of chest-tightening tension and anger, she could finally breathe.

On a Tuesday in late February, Nicole sat in a Highlands Ranch cafe. She wore a loose-fitting sweat suit because her incisions were still healing. She said she was glad for a break from the planning (finalizing her will, considering her funeral), the phone calls, and the revolving door of friends and relatives. A few days ago, Nicole’s cousins surprised her and Tyler with airline tickets and hotel reservations for Disneyland. They even arranged a special lunch for Abbey at Ariel’s Grotto, a Little Mermaid–themed restaurant inside the theme park. “I’m so excited,” Nicole said, her eyes shining. “It’s not till March 18th and I’ve already started packing—how silly is that?”

Once Nicole, Tyler, and Abbey entered the Magic Kingdom, with its castles and princesses and ubiquitous cartoon characters, the two-year-old didn’t fuss or throw fits, even while waiting in long lines. As Nicole and Tyler watched the wonder on their daughter’s face and enjoyed quiet moments together as she slept, it was as if the past and the future had disappeared and all that remained was the three of them, together.

Back in Denver, Nicole got her first encouraging piece of news from the doctor: Scans showed her liver tumors had receded and disappeared. While this did not reverse her terminal diagnosis—the doctor stressed that the tumors would return—it did mean the oral chemo drugs were buying her time. In May she met with Dr. Borges, who’s running multiple clinical trials, several of which focus on experimental drugs aimed at treatment-resistant breast cancers. Because Nicole’s liver tumors were responding to the oral medication she was taking, there was no reason to change her treatment. Even so, she hoped she might live long enough to benefit from new drugs being tested or qualify for a different clinical trial. She hoped the hours and weeks might become months and years, long enough to watch Abbey’s topknot grow into a long ponytail, to take her to school, and to sit with her on the big-kid rides at Disneyland. She hoped....

Megan Feldman, who wrote about Scott McInnis’ gubernatorial campaign in the November 2010 issue, lives in Denver. Her work has appeared in magazines including Details and Glamour. Email her at [email protected].