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Katy Mourns Beloved Cancer Advocate, Nurse, and Mom of Three


August 21, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark

Erica Nowell of Katy recently lost her long battle with cancer. The wife, and mother of three young girls, inspired countless people through her strength, generosity, and dedication to her patients as a nurse practitioner at MD Anderson. Over the past 15 years, Erica fought cancer, but also worked to raise awareness for the disease that ultimately claimed her life.

The Nowell Family: Charlotte, Erica, Sara, Charlie, and Brooklyn. McWalker Photography

Katy Cancer Advocate, Mom Died Suddenly

Erica Nowell passed away in her sleep in the early morning of August 16. She had recently finished treatments for her cancer relapse, and scans from earlier this month showed the 32-year-old was cancer-free.

The suddenness of her passing shocked her the community.

Erica leaves behind her husband, Charlie Ryan Nowell (a Katy Tiger Basketball coach) and their three daughters: Brooklyn (7), Charlotte (3), and Sara (18 months).

Service Information

Family, friends, and the community will gather tonight (August 21) for a viewing at the Schmidt Funeral Home from 5 - 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held this Saturday at 10 a.m., also at Schmidt Funeral Home. The services will be live streamed.

Katy Roots

Erica Nicole Plummer was born in Houston on April 9, 1988 to Mary Catherine Wickizer and Bradley Charles Plummer. They lived in Hockley, TX before moving to Katy.

Erica grew up in Katy schools and made some of her best friends there. During her junior year at Katy High School, she lost one of her best friends, Sara Krauss.

“Losing Sara really got her to see that she wanted to help people,” says one of her best friends, Allison Arrington.

Erica and Allison met at Katy High School as sophomores. Although the two girls decided to take some extra classes and graduate early, Erica was still very active outside of her classes. She was on the Tiger Swim Team, and also traveled to New York, Florida, and San Francisco for modeling. (Photo left: Erica and Allison.)

In December 2005, Erica graduated with plans to move to College Station for college.

Fighting a Rare Cancer

Her plans were delayed when doctors identified a large cyst in the back of her neck. The cyst turned out to be Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. In Erica’s case, the cancer was in her soft tissue making the diagnosis even more rare. She was just 17 years old.

“It’s amazing how things worked out,” says Arrington. “Had we not decided to graduate early, finishing high school could have been hard for her.”

Erica underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

“I still remember her telling me a story about a nurse she had during her treatment,” says Arrington. “She had fought the same rare cancer. The nurse treated her and talked to her about her story. She was a survivor and that really stuck with Erica.”

Inspired to Help Others

Erica’s mom was a nurse and she saw first-hand the care she had given her stepfather when he battled cancer. But it was the nurses who cared for Erica during her treatment who inspired her.

“They lifted her up,” says Allison. “Her ultimate goal was to work on the MD Anderson floor with the doctors and nurses who treated her.”

Erica met the love of her life, Charlie Nowell, while studying at the University of Texas in Austin. She got her degree, and the two were married June 9, 2012.

The couple moved to Charlie’s hometown of Brownwood, but they eventually found their way back to Erica’s Katy roots. Today, Charlie is a girls’ basketball coach and math teacher at her alma mater, Katy High School.

Touched Countless Through Nursing and Service

Erica touched many lives as a nurse and active member and board member in many charities. In 2015, she accomplished her goal to work at MD Anderson on the sarcoma floor with the same doctors and nurses who helped her through her treatment as a teen.

Eventually, she moved out to work at the MD Anderson West Campus in Katy so she could be closer to home and to her family.

In 2018, Erica was inducted into the Tiger Hall of Fame at Katy High School.

In January 2019, the Nowells welcomed their third daughter, Sara. She was named after Sara Krauss, the close friend whom Erica lost while in high school.

Cancer Returns

While Sara was a baby, Erica began to feel unwell and visited her doctor. After testing, she learned that the cancer was back. After 13 years of being cancer-free, she had to fight the illness again.

But she wasn’t alone.

Earlier this year, Erica learned that her older brother, Chris Plummer, was diagnosed with a sarcoma as well. The siblings now had to deal with cancer treatment during a pandemic. With the added restrictions and limitations on visitors, they fought cancer together. They booked back-to-back treatments and doctor appointments and carpooled together.

Even Through the Fight, She Served

Through her passion to help others, Erica was very involved in charities from Can Care to Catwalk for the Cure. But she really found a home for her service with A Shelter for Cancer Families (ASCF.) Erica had worked with the group since her teenage diagnosis, and was recently serving on their board.

Erica meeting with ASCF 2021 Ambassador, Caroline Wilbur. Photo credit: ASCF

Connected with Patients

“Erica connected with her patients in a way few could with both personal insight, clinical expertise and an unparalleled compassion for others,” says ASFCF founder Melissa Amschwand Bellinger.

On the day before her death, Erica was working on the non-profit’s upcoming Hearts of Gold event. ASCF’s event, held in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, raises awareness and funds to support families going through unimaginable struggles.

“Erica was the true embodiment of ‘Hearts of Gold,’” says Bellinger.  “Her love, service to others, resilience and courage lives on through her memory and the many lives she touched.”

An Education Fund for Her Daughters

Erica is survived by family, friends, and all those whose lives she touched. Her greatest love though, was for her three daughters: Brooklyn, Charlotte, and Sara. A fund to support the girls’ education has been set up. Contributions can be made here.

“They will know their mom through us,” says Arrington. “It’s our job now. They will know who she was and how much she loved and was loved.”


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