Nikki Timms, Intermountain Health nurse practitioner, has been named the 2023 Honored Hero by the Las Vegas Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Since being diagnosed with blood cancer herself, Timms has made it her mission not only to fight for her health but for others in need of support. She doesn’t want to be seen as a patient, but as a spokesperson for resiliency.
On November 4, Timms will attend the Las Vegas LLS Light the Night, an annual walk that both recognizes those impacted by blood cancer and helps raises money for cancer research, advocacy, and patient support.
In October 2020, Timms, who works in inpatient cardiology, was starting to feel more fatigued than normal. As a healthy young woman, she attributed this to her workload and raising three children, including a newborn. “I thought eventually I would start getting better, and it never did,” Timms said. “I started to have symptoms, like throat swelling. I couldn’t swallow as well. That’s when I knew something was not right.”
Tests revealed a mass on her pelvis and additional biopsies led to her being diagnosed with stage four follicular lymphoma, a chronic, incurable form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).
Through coordination with her clinic team and Intermountain specialists, Timms began chemotherapy and immunotherapy in February 2021, balancing her treatments with working full-time as much as possible. She cited her Intermountain leadership and colleagues for supporting her.
It was important to stay active, keep her mind sharp, and set a positive example for her children. “I wanted to keep my kids’ lives as normal as possible,” Timms said. “It also helps focusing on other people and helping them. If I sit at home all day long, what is that going to do to me mentally? I need to fight.” It was this mindset that drove her to tell her oldest son about her condition. “I want him to know life will throw you curveballs. What you do with them is on you,” she said. “You can still make choices that can make you have a good life. I want my kids to see that you get dealt a hand, do something with it.”
This lesson was reinforced by Timms’ father, who was diagnosed a year before her with lung cancer. As they went through chemotherapy together, he related his experience with Nikki to motivate her to stay strong.
Timms said, “It helped because I had somebody who would enlighten me. He said, ‘You have you have two choices: Either you fight, or you let yourself succumb to it.’ You have to make a decision, and some people can’t handle that much of a blanket statement. But having him do that and be there has given me more strength to focus.”
Timms has been focusing on outreach efforts with the LLS after they named her their Honored Hero. She said this level of comfort in talking about her cancer is why she joined the organization, to share what she’s learned and let them know they are not alone in their fight.
Specifically, she wants to focus on assisting patients not only with physical care but the mental component. “This disease is exhausting,” Timms said. “Mental health needs to be normalized in cancer patients; that’s number one. I feel the hardest part of your journey is your mental health. I can endure anything physically. Mental fights [are] the hardest.”
Another advantage of sharing her story through LLS is bringing more attention to resources for patients, whether it’s medical care, finances, or insurance. Timms encourages other similarly afflicted patients to seek out the resources that best fit their needs, especially for mental health.
After six rounds of therapy, Timms was officially in remission in July 2021. As of 2023, she continues her maintenance therapy, started her last cycle of immunotherapy, and works full-time. She credited both her personal and work families for helping her on this journey. She also thanked LLS for giving her an opportunity to amplify her voice.
Looking ahead, Nikki wants to keep focusing on her recovery and her family. She also hopes to further her education and career, saying, “I’m going to continue to live.”