63ºF

Bionic single mom living with breast cancer opens her home to foster children

Miramar mom says she doesn't allow limitations to rule her life

MIRAMAR, Fla. – A Miramar mom said she knows she is going to be wearing pink boxing gloves for the rest of her life.

Breast cancer cells spread to different parts of Andrea Nugent's body, but that is not an automatic death sentence. Treatments can prolong a patient's life for many years.

Nugent, 45, has been dealing with breast cancer for about six years. She has been a single mom for eight.

"Mommy has had less energy than usual lately and may have to sleep and get more rest. But that does not mean that she thinks of you or loves you any less."

That is a line in her book "Mommy is still mommy: Cancer Can’t Change That." Her son Zachary Nelson, 8, was her inspiration in 2011. She said the book is meant to help other mothers explain breast cancer to their children.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer when Zachary was two. She said she has been committed to keeping him informed on her medical condition, while answering all of his questions honestly.

"I was busy trying to climb the corporate ladder and acquire things like most people. Trying to build what I thought was the good life -- the high paying job, the big house, fancy car," she said. "Now what's important to me is building memories with my son."

SLIDE SHOW | Family photos

Nugent had chemotherapy for six months. And after surgery to remove both breast, she had six weeks of radiation therapy. And just when she thought it was all over, she had a breast cancer recurrence.  There were cells in her liver.

She has been off and on chemotherapy since 2012. The side-effects of treatment take a toll on her quality of life, but may give her more time with Zachary.

She has neuropathy, nerve damage due to chemotherapy. She has lymphedema, a condition related to fluid retention that causes swelling. And she has fibromyalgia, a disorder that deals with how pain is processed.  

“I don't let my limitations define my life; rather I choose to re-define my limitations by living my life.” she said.

Nugent continues to run her non-profit organization Bionic Girls, which provides free services to those dealing with breast cancer. Some of the services include driving patients to treatment, picking up prescriptions and household cleaning.

Because she always dreamed of having a big family, she is a mom to four boys, she said. She has three foster children. One is a 3-year-old and two of them are babies -- a 10-month-old and a 23-month-old.   

"Being a single mom is hard with or without metastatic disease, however I am fortunate to have a strong support system in my mom and my brother," she said. "They babysit and help out wherever needed."

Nugent said that going on adventures is a priority for her family.  Last year they went to Niagara Falls, and this year she went to Moab, Utah. This week she is on a cruise to Bimini. She is planning on taking Zachary and the boys to the Grand Canyon later this year.

"My son says he wants to see the world, so I promised him I would try my best to show him as much of it as I can while I'm still here," she said.