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STOTT PILATES® Student Spotlight: Jaylee Nickel

Jaylee Nickel

Jaylee Nickel

Jaylee Nickel was a newlywed working in mortgage finance when she received her cancer diagnosis. She had been active all of her life, and this health scare was completely unexpected.

What was also unexpected was her discovery of Pilates, which helped her regain her strength and sense of self after her chemo treatments.

Jaylee’s Story

On November 14, 2013, at 32 years old, Jaylee Nickel was diagnosed with late stage aggressive colon cancer. She had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary the day before, and had found out she was pregnant a month before that.

Before her diagnosis, Jaylee had been riding on a high. She’d never felt better, or stronger, and had recently lost 45 lbs. “I was the sickest I’d ever been, but I didn’t know it,” she says. “It didn’t fit with who I thought I’d been.”

Jaylee terminated the pregnancy. Her surgery was scheduled for January 3 2014, with seven months of chemo treatments to follow after that.  The treatments killed the nerves from her spine to her fingertips and feet. “Pins and needles for a year straight,” she says.

Jaylee documented some of her battle with cancer on Instagram. One day, one of her followers, a Pilates instructor named Carla, reached out with an idea. Carla was doing some practical research on the oft-heard claim that 30 Pilates sessions can give someone a new body. Would Jaylee be interested in taking classes to prove or disprove this theory? Jaylee, who had first experienced Pilates in 2005, agreed.

Jaylee Nickel on the Pilates Reformer

Jaylee began taking three 75-minute private sessions a week with Carla after her nerve damage had subsided. The treatments and surgery had taken a toll on her body, and Jaylee wasn’t enthusiastic about her physical appearance. One day, after about 18 sessions with Karla, Jaylee was getting out of the shower and caught sight of herself in the mirror. She stopped and really looked at herself for the first time in a very long time. “I didn’t have a negative thought in my head,” she says. “It really changed my perspective. I felt strong.”

Pilates helped Jaylee with Crossfit training, increased her range of motion and helped her feel more secure, she says. Inspired by her experience, she decided to take the STOTT PILATES® Intensive course, with the goal of becoming a Certified Instructor. Her background in mortgage finance means learning to teach is a new skill for her, but it’s a welcome challenge, she says.

On January 3rd, 2017 Jaylee had her three-year check-up, and was declared cancer-free. “I always wondered what I wanted to do with my life, and getting sick brought me to Pilates,” she says. “I’m excited, I’m having a blast.”