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"I never thought cancer would be my story"

Thursday 22 June, 2023

When Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was terrified of the pain her family would be put through watching her fight for her life.

Nicole’s diagnosis of breast cancer suddenly made the world an extremely frightening place. But it wasn’t just her own fear she had to cope with – she could see how terrified her family and loved ones were too.

“I remember sobbing in my dad’s arms, crying like I have never cried before, reassuring him it was going to be OK. Seeing the fear and pain in his eyes was far worse than the fear I felt for myself,” Nicole said.

Nicole knows exactly how frightening any cancer diagnosis can be. She vividly remembers the day her life was changed forever.

“I was getting changed for bed when I took off my sports bra and brushed against my left breast. That’s when I felt a lump.”

Nicole wasted no time going to have the lump checked out. That’s when her worries really took over.

“The first two weeks after you find a lump and are waiting for results from a mammogram is a very frightening time,” she remembers.

“It was horrendous and overwhelming. So much is unknown and you’re constantly thinking the worst.”

As her fears and anxieties mounted, Nicole waited for the day of her results. When it finally came, she was painfully aware of an awful feeling of dread. “When I went to get the results, I could tell right away that it was not going to be the outcome I’d hoped for. I cried and cried. All I wanted was my mum. It was very, very scary.”

To her horror, her fears that day were justified. She got the diagnosis she’d been dreading with all her soul.

“It was aggressive breast cancer. People die from breast cancer, so it’s a scary, scary thing.”

Of course, Nicole was frightened for her life. But, on top of that, she was also desperately scared of how the news of her illness would impact her loving family.

“When you are diagnosed,” she says, “you naturally think, ‘how am I going to tell the people I love so much?’ It was agonising – a horrible, horrible thought process.”

In her darkest hour, her heart went out to her parents, her sisters, her devoted husband Ben and her darling children, six-year- old Olivia and nine-year-old Hayden.

“Telling my family – my kids, my dad, my sisters and my husband – was the hardest thing because they didn’t deserve it. They didn’t need this worry. That was one of the scariest parts for me.”

Even when she underwent major surgery, these fears were foremost in her mind.

“I had to have a double mastectomy,” she recalls “I was scared. I was scared of something happening during the operation and not coming out of it. I was scared for the people around me and how it would affect them.”

As her treatment continued, she found out for herself just how gruelling a cancer journey can be.

“I started chemotherapy about four weeks after surgery. I was so unwell. I had a lot of nausea, my bones were sore, and I felt like I was having a heart attack.”

The treatment paid off and, today, two years later, she is happily free of cancer. It’s no exaggeration to say that Nicole owes her life to the timely diagnosis she received. Because she found her cancer and began treatment early, that treatment was more effective.

The past few years have changed people’s regular health visits, which may have a serious impact on their health outcomes. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Victorians dealing with lockdowns and outbreaks were forced to cancel regular health check-ups and cancer screenings. As a result, many cancers have gone undetected.

We don't want to see more Victorians receiving a later stage cancer diagnosis as the earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.  We’re urging all eligible residents to participate in regular cancer screening and if you notice any unexplained symptoms or changes in your body, please don’t delay, book an appointment with a doctor. Early detection saves lives.

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