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Nicole Stef

December 6, 1998 - december 29, 2019


Nicole was a gifted and very ambitious student showing interest in art and math since her very early years. For her achievements she was admitted at the prestigious University of Toronto Schools (UTS) at the age of just 11. There, she diversified her interests and became a great contributor to every annual school show, got second place at an international business competition, has excelled in various sports and got involved in community support work. In addition to her many talents, Nicole loved to dance. Her passion for dancing started with Kalev Estienne competitive rhythmic gymnastics, and she continued to pursue her love of dance at UTS. Her period at UTS was probably the most fulfilling part of her life and there she met her greatest friends. 


Her career choice at the end of the high school was to become a doctor and she was admitted to most competitive programs, including Health Sciences at McMaster. She had to withdraw from university in the first month of school due to illness and could never go back.  


During her last 4 years of severe illness, Nicole maintained her interest in neuroscience, psychology and also became an activist for various causes like animal rights, climate and social justice. In her last year of life she drew and painted with amazing passion and her art tells the story of suffering, hope and despair. 


There is something very special about Nicole. She was an extremely caring person whose dream was not to turn her great talent and passion into a great career, but rather to do something meaningful and helpful for others. She brought much more than joy to her community, she had the determination to help and the drive to challenge and change mentalities and the way people act. 


Nicole was open and passionate about her ideas and convictions. She had nothing to hide and rejected hypocrisy. Her phone didn’t have a password. In fact, her cell phone was entirely in Spanish! Nicole had a passion for the Spanish language and became fluent as she managed to learn it in one summer prior to being taught Spanish in school. Due to her love for the Spanish language and culture, Nicole intended to live in a Spanish speaking country within Latin America where she could help the less fortunate. 


She believed that the world has a meaning and life must have a purpose. Suffering did not make Nicole less kind or less generous. It rather made her braver and more profound. Her artwork is not always easy to watch; the terrible illness made her see things for what they are and praise life for what it should be. 


Nicole had a bucket list of 27 things to achieve in her life. She only crossed out 4. 


Nicole will be remembered as a shining light in our hearts. Between her humour and her kindness, she touched the lives of everyone around her. Her strength and passion shone through in her artwork and activism. She will be greatly missed by many. 


Artwork by: Nicole Stef 

"This is my chronic pain" 

A Short Film by Nicole Stef 

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is a complex and often misunderstood condition. While exact criteria differ, chronic pain is generally defined as pain that lasts for more than three months and leads to significant emotional distress and/or difficulties participating in normal activities like work, school or social commitments. It is most common in female-identifying, Indigenous, older or socially disadvantaged individuals. Chronic pain can be challenging to address since it is often caused by a variety of overlapping physical, psychological and social factors. Prescription medication, steroid injections, physical therapy and counselling are common therapies for chronic pain.

For more information on chronic pain, click 

Did you know?




Canadians live in chronic pain.

Nicole was extremely talented, here we display some of her artwork, representing her experience with chronic pain.

Art Gallery of Nicole

Click on the icons below to check out some more of Nicole's amazing art work! 


For more information about Chronic Pain, please see our provided resources below. 

TED Talk - Elliot Kane, The Mystery of Chronic Pain 

We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we're just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

Chronic Pain Association of Canada (CPAC)

CPAC is Canada's largest independent, not-for-profit charitable organization serving people affected by pain, through education, information, support advocacy. They aim to to prevent and relieve unnecessary pain and to improve the quality of life and daily function of people who suffer from pain through education and awareness. For more information on CPAC you can visit their website by clicking 

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We at McMaster's COPE are here for you and we take your mental health seriously. If you or someone you know is in need of help please reach out to us and we will do everything in our power to help you get through tough times. Until then, stay safe and remember that it's okay not to be okay. In case of an emergency, please seek professional support, and never forget that you are never alone! 

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