Today marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I want to use it as an opportunity to highlight that breast cancer can hit any of us at any time. It doesn’t matter your age or health, nor lack of family history. Cancer does not discriminate and can hit on any ordinary day.
This time last year, I put off an MRI for a lump that was bothering me. I had to cancel my appointment three times in two months. Too busy. Not my highest priority. I had been checked six months before and nothing showed up. Two work colleagues at Medibank told me not to put it off. So I booked in my test. Another ordinary day. The MRI, Mammogram and ultrasound showed nothing. Absolutely nothing. But the biopsy did. Cancer. My ordinary day became extraordinary as I became a passenger on the conveyor belt through our health system. By the time they went to take it out, the tumour was a 7cm.
It was growing so fast, had I waited another few months, I am not sure I would be here today telling this story.
The last eleven months have been indescribable. Challenging beyond words, both mentally and physically as I have gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. All vanity out of the window as I became a bald, weak shell that I didn't even recognize when looking in the mirror.
What has kept me going was having a purpose- and being able to continue to work. For me, it was being surrounded by amazing colleagues at Medibank who have been phenomenal in every way, even painting their nails black in support of my last chemotherapy treatment. Working in the Women’s sector, with some of the most incredible humans on the planet and who have been unwavering in their support. Checking in on how I was constantly. Surrounded by inspiring individuals in Medibank every day- our counsellors- real heroes using their expertise to help those impacted by violence and assault.
I have met many women on the same journey as me. Women I wish I hadn’t met this way -connected by cancer- but who have made my life and perspective much richer. They all have stories. They are all warriors fighting to stay alive every day. Some will live on to spread the word. For others, their journey has been cut short by this cruel disease.
I am now cancer free, and getting healthier and stronger every day. I feel amazing, and have even joined a swim team, training most days. Making time.
It is my personal mission to make sure none of our mothers, daughters, sisters or friends go on the same journey. I vowed, if I got through, I would do my small part to raise awareness. With more than 18,000 women -just like me- likely to be diagnosed this year, it is so important to keep shouting the importance of getting checked from the rooftops. Make time. Trust your instincts.
If caught early, breast cancer has such a good prognosis- almost 100 per cent. Please help me spread the word and tell the women in your life the importance of early detection. It could happen to your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends. I am cancer free, and I look forward to the day that we eliminate cancer so that our future generations don’t need to live with the concern that cancer might come for them on an ordinary day.
In 2019 Nicole will swim a million meters to raise awareness and funds for the Breast Cancer Network Australia and Cancer Council ACT.