Often, difficult news is followed by surprises.
Sides of personalities emerge in friends and family as they deal with the shock and the fear. People can surface unexpectedly, like beacons of strength, and others will need support as you wade through the tough times together.
When UK mother Nicola Hitchen was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer, she was told by doctors she had only months to live.
“I was very scared when they told me,” Nicola told The Sun. “Getting a diagnosis like that you can respond in one of two ways. Either you accept this is what’s happening and sort your affairs out — or you start looking at other options. The first wasn’t an option for me.”
Her beacon of strength? It came from the most unlikely of places.
The current wife of Nicola’s ex-husband, Claire Hitchen, organised a massive fundraiser via crowd-funding website JustGiving. She raised more than $100,000 for the 41-year-old to receive groundbreaking chemotherapy treatment in Istanbul, Turkey.
“This is not an option — the boys Joe and Jake need their mum and she deserves the chance to watch them grow into men and have their own families,” Claire told The Sun.
Nicola and her ex-husband Andy – Claire’s current partner – have two sons together, Joseph 14, and Jacob, 12.
After five 10-day sessions with the pioneering treatment, the tumour in Nicola's abdomen has almost disappeared. And secondary growths on her liver, spine and lungs have also shrunk.
"In 10 days, I went from being on six or seven different painkillers a day to not needing any," she said, referring to her first stay in Istanbul. "It was amazing."
Now, she's feeling optimistic. She needs another four bouts of treatment, and her chances of survival are looking up.
"It’s going really well so far," she said. "I’ve spoken to other patients at the centre and it’s worked for them so I have every reason to stay positive."
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As Claire continues campaigning to raise a further $85,000 for the remainder of Nicola's treatment, the mother-of-two is feeling grateful.
"It’s brought us all even closer together," said Nicola. "The support I’ve been given has been phenomenal, not just from my family but from complete strangers too."
"I’m completely overwhelmed. Everyone - especially Claire - has been amazing."