Get to know Nicola Unterecker, a 29-year-old from southern Germany. Despite facing a challenging diagnosis of a crossed form of Burkitt’s lymphoma and Burkitt’s leukemia at the tender age of 11, Nicola’s zest for life knows no bounds:  from outdoor escapades with her furry squad to jamming out on musical instruments and getting crafty – it’s all there.

burkitt lymphoma leukemia survivor Nicola

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

My name is Nicola and  I’m 29 years old. I’m half American, half German and live in southern Germany with my husband and three cats.

What’s your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with a crossed form of Burkitt’s lymphoma and Burkitt’s leukemia.

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

I was first diagnosed at age 11 after experiencing severe weight loss, itching arms and legs and flu-like symptoms for several weeks. After being sent to a psychologist for an eating disorder, he actually noticed a weird rash on my arm and sent me to my GP for labs. I relapsed several times and finally received a stem cell transplant in October 2022.

What has the cancer experience taught you?

Living with cancer for more than half of my life taught me that both, life and death, can be cruel and beautiful – sometimes even at the same time. And that you’re never too sick or too broken to change something in this world. My power lies within me, not in what or how someone else sees me.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

That would definitely be music! Especially in my late teenage years and early 20s I’d spend most of my time in the hospital being on YouTube, browsing through songs and bands no one I knew had ever heard of. A lot of those songs still accompany me to this day.

Try to describe yourself in 3 sentences

I’m a dreamer and a big kid at heart but also not afraid to face a challenge. While I enjoy being alone, in the right company I do become an extrovert – still I would choose the company of animals over people any day. I can remember song lyrics way better than names and there’s ALWAYS a song playing on my mind – yes sometimes it does get annoying.

Nicola burkitts lymphoma leukemia survivor from germany

What do you do in your free time?

I spend as much time as possible outside, we’re currently also training our three youngster cats to come with us on a leash or in their backpacks. Other than that I enjoy physical exercise,  playing piano, guitar and singing and do a lot of crafting. From tooling leather to working with epoxy, you name it and I will try it for sure.

What do you need/want to have a crash course in?

Public speaking! I know that might sound funny after giving several speeches last year but I want to be able to speak more freely and with more confidence.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t listen to the judgments of people you wouldn’t ask for advice for. We tend to care so much about what strangers might think of us while forgetting to acknowledge our successes, the amount of work we have put in and what we had to sacrifice to be where we’re at.

 

What is your favorite motto in life?

Everyone said it wouldn’t work out until someday someone who didn’t know about that just did it.

What makes you instantly light up?

The smell of pine trees in summer, any kind of animal and definitely also good food. Getting all three at the same time is the jackpot. Other than that, the right song can always change my mood for the better.

What do you do to relax?

That really depends on what I need to relax from. After a stressful day or week at work, I like to get (sort of) creative by being artsy or stuff like building legos. When my social battery needs a refill, I tend to go out for a run or workout.

Nicola lymphoma leukemia survivor

What in your life do you feel most grateful for?

For being where I am today – I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true. For a really long time my future was very uncertain, I wasn’t really able to plan ahead much further than a few weeks at best. Lately I’ve allowed myself more and more to dream about the future again, to make plans and be able to stick with them. That’s priceless to me.

Which app do you use the most on your phone?

Structured. I like my day planned and without it I’d be really lost. 😅 I literally plan anything on it from face care to meal plan and it has been a game changer ever since I started using it. It also helps me a lot with creating healthier habits and routines as well as some memory issues.