Niki's Breast Cancer Story

I was 25 years old when I was diagnosed with Microinvasive DCIS, HER2 positive ER negative. My partner and I had only been living in our one bedroom Collingwood apartment for 6 months before I was taken to hospital on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Little did I know that 3 days later I’d be asking the Breast Fellow how long I had left to live. 

It all started on November 30, 2016 when I was in the shower getting ready for work. I was doing my regular breast examination (thanks mum for drilling it into my head), when I found a lump in my right breast. I called my partner and he came running in and so I asked him to have a feel also, he pretty much confirmed that I wasn’t imagining things. 

Not thinking much of it, I went to work, a bit concerned but still didn’t think it owed a day off. I told my supervisor who I was sharing and office with at the time about my finding in the morning and advised I go to the doctors. 

As I was driving to my local GP, I called Breast Screening Australia enquiring about making an appointment for a mammogram, to which they asked how old I was and if there is family history and I responded with “25 and no”. She said “We can’t help” and hung up the phone. 

I saw my doctor and I told her what I had found, she had a feel around and said ‘It’s a cyst, you have nothing to worry about’. I asked if I could do an ultrasound and she responded with ‘Sure, if you want. They probably won’t find anything’. I was a little annoyed at that point but I opted to ask a couple of more questions, ‘What if it hurts? What if it grows’. She responded in a frustrated manner ‘If it hurts, take Panadol and it won’t grow.’ I left and just “gave up” on the lump. 
Two weeks later I was taken into the Emergency Department with sharp abdominal pain. Inflamed appendix and a ruptured cyst in my right ovary so I had surgery the next morning to have it removed. 

2 weeks post op, December 29, I had booked a dinner for my partner’s birthday. I noticed my breast being really itchy, not thinking anything of it, we got ready and headed out to dinner. The thing I remember most about that lovely dinner, was scratching my breast and some people staring at me. 

The next day, my partner and I went to the movies and stopped past my parents’ house to get advice. My mum was all ‘It can’t be cancer because cancer doesn’t hurt’. It was very red at this point but thought nothing of it. 

It was the morning of New Years Eve. I woke up and my right breast was almost double the size of my left. It was hard and really angry looking. I looked at my partner and said ‘I think it’s time we go to the hospital.’ Little did I realise, I’d be in there for a week. 

They initially diagnosed me with mastitis until I told them that I don’t have kids, nor have I ever fallen pregnant. That’s when they decided to keep me in. As it was the holiday period, the person who normally does the mammogram scans wasn’t back from their holidays. 

On Jan 3rd, the nurses advised that no one could come down with me and then they put me in a wheelchair, I had my trusty teddy bear and was wheeled down to the Pauline Gandel Imaging Centre. 

After my mammogram, I sat in the waiting room, alone and scared. A million things running in my thoughts, all while looking where the woman went with my scan. 6 people walked out of the “scan viewing room” and the lady started walking towards me, “Nikolina, we need to get some more scans.” That was the moment I knew they had found something. I remember doing an MRI after that and then being wheeled back into my room. 

Later that afternoon, I was laying on my bed with my partner and my parents were talking to each other when I remember the door swinging open and the Breast Fellow, Ward Nurse, Social Worker and Counsellor walked in. 
The breast fellow sat next to my bed, held my hand and said, ‘I don’t know how you managed to do that mammogram without being in so much pain.’ I looked at her confused, ‘what do you mean?’ ‘I’m so sorry to tell you but it’s cancer.’ That day is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I immediately responded with ‘How long do I have left to live?’ and she answered, ‘I can’t say until we do further scans but it is aggressive’ 

It was a whirlwind 2 years. Biopsies, scans, egg preservation, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, Herceptin, 2 mastectomies and laparoscopies (for my endometriosis) and I also completed my studies (Cert II in Auslan). 

It’s been a really educational experience. What have I learnt? I’ve learnt about breast cancer. I’ve learnt that breast cancer doesn’t just occur to women who are post-menopausal or just women in general. I’ve learnt that I am not invincible to breast cancer. I have learnt that breast cancer can hurt. I’ve learnt that there are different types of breast cancer and there are different stages. I have also learnt that we need to raise more awareness in young women with breast cancer. I’ve learnt that we, as young women, need to educate other women on the importance of self-examination. Being strong in our minds will get us through these tough times. Being resilient and never giving up without a fight is what I learnt about me. 

Early detection saves lives, and it can save yours. Always remember to check your breasts


Instagram  @nikivelkoska25


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