Sonoraville Elementary School lunch lady Christy Nicholson is a beloved figure in Gordon County. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2018, the school system hosted fundraisers on her behalf, Principal Amy Beason had T-shirts made and sold to help pay for treatment, and both current and former students flooded her with cards and messages of support.
Nicholson, known by most as “Crazy Christy” because of her willingness to take “any excuse to dress up and act like a fool,” said the outpouring of love and assistance from the community was extremely humbling. It also marked the first time that she can ever remember being at a true loss for words.
“There’s nothing more special about me than anybody else. I’m not the first person to ever have breast cancer, but they treated me like I was,” Nicholson said. “It made me realize how many people really cared about me. I didn’t realize it until I saw their reactions. It really touched me.”
Her family, especially her 13-year-old daughter Jayden and husband Matthew Nicholson, took the news hard. She said she can remember Jayden crying and her husband being so upset that she ended up driving home from that first appointment. They were understandably devastated, but Nicholson refused to meet them in that place. She told them: “I had cancer before I was told I had cancer. My life isn’t going to be any different.”
Adopting that attitude was difficult but for Nicholson, cancer is a scary but not undefeatable enemy. Her mother, Joy Williams, beat it. She is hopeful she will too.
“My mother is a breast cancer survivor from 1999. She is almost 81 and still with me. I’m strong like my momma. She never stopped moving or lost faith and neither will I,” she said. “People ask me how I can be so positive when I have cancer. It’s because I’m blessed. I can get out of bed. I can be a good lunch lady. I can be the best momma I can be. I am blessed. I really feel that way.”
Nicholson’s positivity and determination have allowed her to keep the promise she made to her family. Save for what she called “some hard chemo days” and the loss of her hair, her life has not changed very much. Even when she started chemo in January and took treatments every 21 days, she only missed work when she had to for appointments. When she is at work, she doesn’t let her illness shine through. She is the same old Crazy Christy she always was, even going so far as to let students rub her head for luck once she lost her hair.
“You have to make light of it. That’s why I make jokes. I don’t want to wake up mad. I want to wake up glad that I got up,” she said. “God hasn’t let me down yet. I’m not going to start acting like He has.”
She spends her time working on “artsy-fartsy” projects, reading, spending time with her family, going to church, and playing with animals. She describes herself as “one of those who don’t sit down a lot” and said she has gotten into going to the gym recently at the advice of AdventHealth clinical nutritionist Judy Fehlenberg, who advised her to join after treatment in order to keep herself healthy.
She goes almost every day now and recently achieved a personal best on a mile-long run.
“I went just after chemo on Monday and a lady asked to take a photo of me to add to her wall of inspiration. I joked that she shouldn’t do a picture of me because I’m still a free grazer and eat Little Debbies, you know, but she said she wanted to because I had just gone to chemo and I was still there,” Nicholson said. “I have to credit Skinny Judy for that. She motivated me to go in the beginning and it only gets easier.”
Fehlenberg is only one of many AdventHealth employees who have helped Nicholson on her journey. She said AdventHealth has been “amazing from one end to the next” and that she was thankful not to have to leave Gordon County to get the best cancer care available.
“Just flat out — everything and everybody in Gordon County has been wonderful to me, from Dr. Turner’s office to Dr. Box’s office,” Nicholson said. “Everybody serves such a purpose through AdventHealth. They really care. You know how can just tell some people are meant to do what they’re doing? That’s these people. This is their calling.”
Nicholson is currently taking regular chemo treatments. Her hair has grown back, for the most part, and she said she is looking forward to a future where she continues to be “crazy as all get out.”