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BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR SHARES HER MOTIVATIONAL JOURNEY TO GIVE HOPE

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Niki - Breast Cancer Survivor
“You never know how strong you truly are until you go through something like this.”

Niki was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Now, she has successfully defeated her disease and lives and happy & healthy life with her boyfriend.

The Diagnosis

“November 30th, 2016, I was in the shower getting ready for work. My mum always encouraged me to feel my breast as I was growing up so I was doing a routine self-examination in the shower. I noticed a small lump, the size of a 10c coin. I told my partner about it, but not overly concerned and thought I’ll make an appointment down the track to get it checked out.

When I arrived at work, I told my work colleague/supervisor about the lump and that I’m getting more and more concerned about it so he advised I leave and go to the doctors as I would be distracted by it all day.

As I was on my way to the GP I called Breast Screening Australia asking if I can book myself in for an appointment, as soon as they asked me for my age and I told them 25, they said they can’t do it and hung up.

I saw my GP and she referred me to an Ultrasound. Once the result came back, she had a feel and told me that it was just a cyst and I had nothing to worry about. I asked what I should do if it grows or if it hurts and she told me to take Panadol and that it shouldn’t grow.

2 weeks later I had emergency surgery (laparoscopy number 5. I also have Endometriosis), for a ruptured cyst in my right Ovary and removal of my appendix. I was back at work 1 week later.

December 29th, 2016, I had a dinner booked at 10:15 pm at Dinner by Heston for my partners birthday! I noticed on our “fancy night out” that I spent most of it scratching my right breast. It was really itchy and red but I thought from all the scratching and bacteria under my skin, it was causing the redness.

The next day it was my partners birthday so we went out during the day for a bit and noticed a bit of growth in my right boob but it wasn’t as itchy. I stopped past my mum and dads house on the way back home and mum recommended I go to the hospital. My partner and I ended up going out for some drinks that night.

NYE, Dec 31st, 2016. I woke up that morning and noticed that overnight, my breast had grown significantly and it looked very angry. I turned to my partner and I told him that it was the time to take me to the hospital.

He took me to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and I was admitted at midday. As it was during the holiday period, there were no specialists available at the time. They asked if I had ever had a mammogram done and I replied with “No”. I had 2 ultrasounds that afternoon and they told me that they “think” it’s mastitis. I didn’t know what that was so I called my sister and asked her. She advised that it can’t be as I’ve never had children. She then explained to me what mastitis was and so when the nurses came back into my room, told them that it can’t be for that reason, because I have never even fallen pregnant. The nurses looked puzzled.

I spent NYE watching the fireworks in Ward 5A aka the Complex Ward. With women whom I have never met, my partner and nurses, I was a bit anxious and scared about what was going to happen over the next few days. It was really frustrating and no one knew what was wrong with me. Blood tests were coming back all clear and nothing was being picked up in the ultrasound.

Finally, on 1st Jan 2017, the Breast Fellow came in and introduced herself to my family and I and advised that I was booked for a Mammogram that morning.

After my mammogram, I was sitting in the waiting room and after a couple of minutes, 6 people walked out of a room and the woman who did my mammogram scan started walking towards me. At that point, I knew something was wrong and that they had found something. She advised that she needs to get another scan and that an MRI has been booked for straight after that.

After both scans, they took me back to my room where my parents, my partner and I would be waiting for the results. A couple of hours later, the Breast Fellow, Ward Nurse, Breast Care Nurse, Counsellor, and Social Worker came in. The Breast Fellow sat next to my bed, held my hand and said: “I don’t know how you went through that scan but we’re sorry to tell you it’s breast cancer“. My initial reaction was shocking, but then I broke down and I looked over at my partner and my parents who were distraught about the news. I looked over to the Breast Fellow and asked “How long do I have left to live?” she responded by saying “We can’t answer that until we do some further scans.”

The Journey

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“It’s been a long journey. One that I’m still going through. It’s been painful, frustrating, exhausting and an educational journey. I have dealt with the emotions of my diagnosis, the pain from my surgeries and scalp cooling, the constant hormonal changes with IVF/Egg Collection and Menopause. Radiotherapy and infections, the frustration of the uncertainty and the waiting around. The sadness of losing my breasts and my hair. I’ve learned so much about myself and my resilience and strength. I’ve learned to be kind to myself and my body. I’ve learned acceptance. Although I still have more surgeries scheduled, I know my only way is up.”

Motivation to fight cancer

“I was 25 years old at the time of my diagnosis and I had a whole life ahead of me. My motivation was and still is my partner and traveling the world.”

Message to other fighters

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“Knowledge is power, I think it’s important to know everything you can regarding what you’re about to go through. Know all of your options and you do what you have to do to make the right decision for you. Have trust in your medical team and work with them in making the best decision for you. Listening to your body is also really important, it will help with your journey. Take some time for some self-care.”

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