Everyone loved Nikki. As the Director of Behavioral Health at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, and really throughout her career as a licensed professional counselor, Nikki reached many people, from foster children and those suffering from mental illness to those in the prison population. She always succeeded in what she did - quick to excel and swift to offer a helping hand. She cared about people, and people cared about her.
So at the age of 37, she never expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer. After consultations, chemotherapy, a bout with sepsis, surgeries, indescribable pain and radiation, Nikki passed away just a short 7 months after her diagnosis.
"I tell her story a lot," said Wendy Sparks, Nikki's sister. "You think about losing your parents, but I never thought about losing her, she was my younger sister. So I never even fathomed that I'd lose her, especially this way and especially so fast."
Nikki never had symptoms of lung cancer, even in her final days. And while Nikki is gone, those that care about her and love her are not. Nikki's passion for helping people lives on through Team Nikki, a group of dedicated LUNG FORCE Heroes, championed by Wendy, set on raising awareness about lung cancer. And they've done just that.
Through LUNG FORCE, the group has reached thousands of people to share information about lung cancer and the importance of screening for high-risk populations, and they have also raised tens of thousands of dollars to benefit lung cancer research.
"I tell Nikki's story because I don't want people to forget her, and I also want people to know that anyone can get lung cancer at any age, and you don't necessarily have to have symptoms," Wendy said. "I hope that in my life time we will see a cure for this dreadful disease."
Wendy and Team Nikki is what LUNG FORCE is all about – empowering women to raise their voices against lung cancer and for lung health. Join the FORCE to defeat lung cancer by sharing your story, because we can no longer be silent.