Nikki has seen both sides of cancer care

My name is Nikki. And I’ve been a Cancer Support Project Manager at Weston General Hospital, for the last two years. Before that, I spent 24 years working at University Hospital Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

The best part of my job is making a difference to people who have cancer. It’s not clinical. It’s about all the other stuff that surrounds cancer; the spiritual, emotional and practical needs people have. The work I do is especially meaningful because I’ve had cancer, twice.

I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 19. At the time I’d been busy doing what most teenage girls were doing; dieting, lazing and watching ‘Pretty Woman’ on repeat! But it wasn’t until I found a lump on my neck, that the weight loss and extreme tiredness made sense.

I had surgery, chemo and radiotherapy here in the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre. It was before teenage and young adult cancer services existed. So I was treated along with all the adults. I was frightened and I didn’t like being away from home. But the nurses were awesome and I was really well looked after.

I can still remember lying on the ward watching the balloons go up over Bristol, just wanting to survive, and get through it.

Once I got my life back, I did a lot of partying! By the time I reached my early forties, I’d say I was pretty fit and healthy. So the breast cancer diagnosis was a bit out of the blue. I never expected to be ill again. I thought I’d done it.

I hadn’t had any symptoms and I’d been going for regular mammograms. But after one, I was recalled. This time round I had chemo as a day patient. As I was working at the hospital, I knew the staff in the unit. In fact, some of them had nursed me as a teenager.

Seeing them again was like a big warm hug that came around me to comfort and support me. I couldn’t have done it without them, and my family and friends.

People bang on about you being brave, but you don’t really have a choice. I carried on with life. I did the school run and the food shop. Those normal mundane things were really important. They were hard but I did them.

Cancer’s taken me to the darkest place I’ve been in my life. But it’s also given me strength. It’s given me confidence, it’s given me a sense of humour, it’s made me who I am.  It’s crap but it’s totally doable. You just need to take each day as it comes, and accept that some will feel more positive than others. And that’s okay.

What motivates me to get out of bed every day is my work. We make a difference to people’s lives. We stop them feeling alone and isolated. And that makes me feel brilliant! I love being part of a team and belonging to something - it gives everything I’ve been through meaning.

I believe the people of Bristol are passionate and proud of their city and that together, with Above & Beyond, we can take on cancer and win. 

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