Nicolle Mattingly death & obituary, Brain Cancer – whats happened?

At the age of 9, Nicolle Mattingly was a girl with a headache.

Doctors ran a series of tests, culminating in an MRI of her brain, to find the culprit: a benign brain tumor. Doctors had to operate immediately because the tumor blocked fluid in her brain. Nicolle then completed her surgery with two months of radiation. After that, she continued to have regular check-ups and MRI scans for the next 15 years.

Nicolle grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington, took dance and ballet classes, and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Washington. In fact, it was her childhood cancer experience that sparked Nicolle’s love of science. She then taught science at a middle school in Reno, Nevada.

But in the spring of 2014, Nicole began to feel dizzy during her class in the classroom. “I couldn’t even stand in front of the classroom for a long time,” recalls Nicolle. Doctors were reluctant to do an MRI, but given her medical history, Nicole pushed for it. Good thing, because they found a 5cm tumor in another part of the brain. She underwent surgery, and because of her new doctor’s diagnosis, she did not require follow-up radiation therapy.

In January 2016, Nicolle’s routine MRI revealed a new brain tumor — a very rare type of brain tumor called pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, or PXA. Her neurosurgeon in Tacoma advised Dr. See Lia Halasz, SCCA Proton Therapy Center.

Reviewing her medical history, doctors determined that the tumor was likely the result of radiation Nicole received as a child.

“That was the most devastating part. The treatment I had as a child, the treatment that was supposed to cure me, made me sick again,” Nicole said. “This time, though, I have more chances. Proton therapy is a great option for me because it’s highly targeted and doesn’t expose my healthy tissue.”

Nicolle started 30 proton treatments for which she commuted from Puyallup. However, time has proved difficult. Nicole married her sweetheart David in nine weeks! Proton therapy takes six weeks! Dr. Halasz and center staff were able to start treating Nicolle right away, so the treatment wouldn’t interfere with their upcoming wedding.

“When I was irradiated as a kid, it was like walking into a doctor’s office — it was very cold,” Nicole said. “I had a completely different point of view when I was 9. But everyone at the proton therapy center, from the front desk staff to the nurses and doctors, always made me feel cared. I want to meet you in person.”

With few side effects, Nicolle was able to continue her full-time job as a school district administrator. After a six-week commute from Puyallup to Seattle, graduation is finally here — right before their wedding. On June 20, Nicolle celebrated her victory over brain cancer. On July 9, Nicole celebrated her wedding anniversary.

“Proton therapy is much less risky because you don’t destroy all the extra tissue,” Nicolle said. “It’s so targeted, and when you look at risk, it’s an important part that can’t be ignored. What you’re thinking about right now is helping you, but you need to think about how this treatment will affect you in the future.”

Today, Nicolle and her husband David look forward to the future and enjoy every day of their lives.

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