Sophomore copes with a year full of change

Sophomore Nicole Hix has had anything but a simple year, from spending a semester at boarding school to the discovery of her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Nicole spent the second half of her freshman year at St. Andrews Sewanee boarding school in Tennessee, to escape the difficulties she had been facing at Westlake, a choice that she made collectively with her parents.

“I was doing really badly in school,” Nicole said. “I had pretty much given up on school and given up on my life and thought that someone was out to get me and that all my teachers hated me. I didn’t really think school was important. My parents thought that maybe if I was in a different environment and on my own that I would be able to realize that school is your future.”

However, after one phone call, Nicole’s life changed and would never be the same again.

“It was a Saturday,” Nicole said. “I was away at school [in Tennessee] and I was on my way to get my hair done with my friend for prom and I called my mom because I just had a really bad feeling, like I couldn’t breathe and I was just really nervous and I couldn’t figure out why. Then she had told me she found a lump in her breast and at first I was like ‘oh it’s no big deal it’s just a lump,’ but later that night it hit me and I couldn’t stop crying.”

After spending a semester at St. Andrews, Nicole returned home to be with her family during this difficult time and back to Westlake for her sophomore year. Although she was excited to be back with friends and family again, Nicole was really nervous to return to the false rumors that had been spread during her absence. Especially since she had gotten so used to the great people she had spent her semester with, she wasn’t quite ready to face the cruel words of her peers.

“Honestly I prefer it there,” Nicole said. “I was so happy. Everything was perfect. Everything was working out, I was surrounded by these really genuine and intellectual people who had made it [into the school] for all the same reasons I did and so I guess we were all the same and there were no challenges in being accepted by my peers.”

Nevertheless, Nicole learned many life lessons and finally felt the importance of maturity and responsibility and was ready to be with her family.

“I think I’ve grown up and became stronger and I can handle a lot more than I ever could before,” Nicole said. “I like to say that I went through everything I did last year to prepare myself to be able to handle my mom being sick. It was like a sign of fate.”

Nicole’s mother, Julia Hix, has undergone many different procedures. When she was first diagnosed, she had a double mastectomy and since early summer has been receiving chemotherapy twice a month. If all goes well, her doctors believe she should be done with chemo by November.

“I cope with it by looking at it like ‘it’s no big deal, don’t worry about it, it’ll be gone,'” Nicole said. “I guess it isn’t always a very good way to deal with things, but it’s gotten me through it so far. I’m just kind of numb. I don’t like to feel sorry for myself. I don’t really like to draw attention to it and I don’t really want everyone to know I’m scared that people are going to tiptoe around me, I’m still me. Some people feel so guilty for their happiness; they don’t want to be around me. But I trust in the universe or whatever higher power, that they’ll take care of us and even if something bad does happen, I know that it was for a certain reason and that it’ll all work out in the end.”

Between school, her mother, chores and other responsibilities, Nicole doesn’t usually have time to do careless things and have lazy weekends like most teenagers.

“I’m usually at home, taking care of my sister and all the chores around the house,” Nicole said. “I don’t really have time to hang out with other people.”

Due to the extra work around the house to help out her family, Nicole sometimes finds it hard to concentrate on school.

“I am doing better [in school] than I was doing last year because I have motivation,” Nicole said. “But it’s hard to find the strength to sit down and do something when I could be downstairs cleaning for my mom or watching my younger sister, or even just have enough time to do it.”

Everyone is trying to look at the positive side; however the Hix family is still trying to figure out how to deal with this new struggle. This includes Nicole’s seven-year-old sister, Mel.

“My sister is taking everything pretty well,” Nicole said. “We take her to this place called ‘From the Heart,’ which is a therapy center for cancer patients or children of parents who have cancer. They explain every little step and procedure that my mom goes through so that she can understand what’s going on and it’s not as scary.”

Nicole’s father seems to be having the most trouble dealing with his wife’s sickness out of everyone.

“My dad is like me,” Nicole said. “He decides that if you ignore it and roll over, [the issue] is not going to be there, which isn’t always a good thing. My dad hates change, so when my mom began to lose her hair and energy and just couldn’t do much, that really affected him. He’ll get stressed out and angry with us but we know he means well and we all understand that we’re all dealing with this in different ways, so we just kind of accept each other for how we are right now.”

Due to the chemo, Hix has had many other side effects, but one of the hardest things she’s been dealing with is her hair loss, which makes her feel unattractive, but on the contrary, Nicole thinks her mom looks better than ever. Continuously complementing her mother for her beauty, she wishes her mom could see the same beauty that she and the rest of the world see.

“No one can rock a headscarf like Julia Hix can,” Nicole said.

Throughout this entire journey as a person and through life, Nicole has grown and changed into a different person, a better person. All that the community can hope for now is for a quick and safe recovery for Julia Hix as they keep her and her family in their prayers.