Nicole Langlois, a former UMaine swimmer and native of Washington, D.C., was 20 years old when she first felt the lump in her right breast. Doctors told her it was a swollen duct that would soon disappear and sent her home. It didn’t.
A few months before her 21st birthday, she sat in her doctor’s office looking at mammogram and ultrasound results. She was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic cancer after tests revealed the disease had spread to her lymph nodes since her initial appointment months earlier.
She started chemotherapy soon after.
In an interview in 2013 at the university, Langlois explained how shocked she was when she received the news because she was so young. She wasn’t sure how her family and teammates would react and was hoping she wouldn’t have to put her swimming, school and overall life on the back burner. She said it wasn’t fair — if the cancer had been discovered at the initial appointment, could it have been stopped?
Langlois started chemotherapy and didn’t cry until shaving her head three weeks after her diagnosis. She bought a collection of wigs — her favorite being a long, blonde wig that reminded her of Barbie.
Her chemo treatments took place primarily at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland. Langlois explained she had a relatively easy time in chemo — doing all-day sessions one day, then going back to coach swimming and lifeguard the next day. She still attended classes and swam while undergoing chemo.
Right after she turned 21, she had a double mastectomy. The doctors ordered her to stay out of the pool for one month after the surgery. She followed their instructions to the day. Head Black Bears Swim Coach Susan Lizotte said the team was extremely supportive — three women on the team as well as several men shaved their heads as well. The team held fundraisers to help her offset medical costs and make donations to cancer research.
Langlois made it to graduation in 2013, continuing to swim and participate in team activities as well as classes. She graduated with a degree in kinesiology and wanted to become a pediatric oncologist.
This past Thursday, she lost her battle with breast cancer at 26 years old.
According to a statement released by the university, Black Bears swim coach Susan Lizotte said, “We are very saddened to hear about Nicole’s passing.”
“She had endless courage during her fight with breast cancer and never let it slow her down. Nicole will be remembered for her contagious smile, her love of country music and her endless energy and spunk. Her story has touched the UMaine swimming and diving family and she will continue to inspire, motivate and drive the team for years to come.”
A memorial fund has been set up in Langlois’ name. Those wishing to offer support can do so by visiting the Nicole Katherine Langlois Memorial Foundation.