O’Brien Tech sophomore Nicole Belade will never forget April 16, 2013. She will never forget waiting for two hours to get the results back from her colonoscopy. And she’ll never forget when the doctor told her she suffered from Ulcerative Colitis, a disease of the colon that includes ulcers and open sores.
“Why me?,” she said, as she reminisced. “Why did it have to be me?”
However Belade, who is still undergoing treatment, is averaging 18 points per game for the Condors, is less than 400 points shy of 1,000 for her career and said she is not only going to beat this quality of life altering disease, but also show others they can beat it, too.
“I’m not going to sit down and be lazy and think this illness is going to stop me,” she said. “Because it won’t.”
It has not stopped her, but last February it slowed her down according to O’Brien Tech coach and her father Mark Belade. He said she was weak, tired and pale, a huge shift from the energetic, athletic daughter he was used to.
“She’s the type of kid that as soon as she wakes up until the time she goes to bed she’s on the go all day long,” he said.
Nicole said she initially did not tell her parents, but her conditions worsened and she could no longer hide it.
“Everything that you would think of when you have the flu, I had that everyday,” Nicole said. “And it wasn’t getting better.”
She said her doctor could not pinpoint what was wrong and advised the sophomore to see a gastroenterologist. After a colonoscopy, Nicole was diagnosed.
“We just didn’t know how to handle it,” Mark said. “It was something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
At times, Nicole pointed the finger on herself.
“Maybe if I said something earlier I wouldn’t have had this?” she said.
The disease is not life-threatening, though there is no cure for it. Ulceratice Colitis is treated with steroids, like prednisone, to force the disease into remission. Nicole said the treatment works, but it caused her to gain weight.
“I was in shape and I looked great, and then all of sudden you gain 65 pounds,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
So Nicole and her family did research. Mark said Nicole’s illness brought an already tight family even closer together. And when basketball season came around, Nicole was ready to get back on the court. However her first game on Dec. 11 was not easy.
“It broke my heart to see that she wasn’t at the level that she knew she could be and I knew she could be,” Mark said.
Nicole said she was out of energy after two minutes, but fought through it and led the Condors to a 55-51 victory over Amistad Academy
“I’m going to try as hard as I can, and if I get tired, I get tired,” Nicole said. “But I’m not going to stop myself from playing because I love the game.”
Nicole’s efforts have made Mark an even more proud father and coach.
“She’s a fighter,” he said. “She’s not going to let this stop her.”
Nicole’s resilient attitude has helped her make it through the season. She said some days are better than others, but she’s not ready to quit. Nicole also said she doesn’t want others battling the disease to quit either. The sophomore, who is ranked ninth in her class, is in the nursing program at the school and said she hopes to become a registered nurse in order to assist others.
“I would love to be that person that can help,” Nicole said. “That can sit there and help them get better and know what its like to have this disease and know that it’s okay.”