Nyrie Contor was 38 years old and 28 weeks pregnant with twins when she found a lump in her left breast near her armpit in August of 2012. The Australian teacher and artist, already a mother to a 5-year-old boy, was under the recommended age for a mammogram and was hoping the issue was just an obstructed milk duct, but the lump was nearly the size of a 5-cent piece and she was concerned, so she went to see her doctor.
Nyrie had a mammogram, which did not show a tumor but did show enlarged lymph nodes. Her doctor referred her for an ultrasound, and then a biopsy, before she was finally diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma.
“To say I was devastated was a complete understatement,” wrote Nyrie on the website her sister, Vhari, created to share her story. “It was like my whole world just fell in on me. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t speak, all I could hear were the words ‘invasive ductal carcinoma.'”
The doctors suggested that Nyrie take medication to stop her milk from coming in and warned against breastfeeding her twins after their birth. She would also have to deliver them prematurely so that she could have chemotherapy.
At 29 weeks pregnant, Nyrie underwent her first surgery, a lumpectomy and removal of the lymph nodes on the left side. At 32 weeks, her babies, Asher and Brynn, were delivered by C-section. They would be in the hospital for six weeks.
“They went straight into the Neonatal ward,” she said, “I didn’t get to touch or cuddle them, it was all so clinical.”
The ER+ and PR+ cancer was treated with chemotherapy and then another surgery to clear the margins that had been missed. After each of her six chemo cycles, Nyrie was not allowed to touch her children because of the toxicity of the drugs. Then she did six weeks of radiation and began taking hormone-suppressing drugs in an effort to stop the cancer from coming back.
But it did anyway. “On Tuesday the 9th of February 2016 I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer,” Nyrie wrote. “I have breast cancer metastasis in my sternum. I am now living with a terminal illness.”
Cancer was also discovered in her hip, ribs, and leg, and she was scheduled for a hip replacement, bone-strengthening injections, a PET scan, and more radiation. Soon it was also discovered in her liver and lungs. Her children were just 8 and 3 years old at the time.
All along the way, Nyrie’s husband, family, and friends were there to support her and helped raise money for her, as well as help out with her young children, for whom she hoped to be around for several more years. But no one could do anything to stop her cancer.
On July 7, 2017, Nyrie passed away at the age of 43, leaving behind her husband, Wayde, and her three children, as well as countless other friends and family members who mourn her loss.
“Nyrie was a strong lady that fought and loved to the end,” her sister Vhari wrote on her Facebook page. “Understandably family and friends are in grief.”
Rest in peace, Nyrie. May your valiant fight be an inspiration to all those who hear your story.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?