Getting to know Nicola
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am 34 and have been married to my husband Phil for 4 years (we have been together for 12 years).
We live in Worcestershire and have a son called Myles, who is 2 ½.
What is a normal day for you?
My days are full with Myles! Normally, we try and get out and about somewhere fun in the mornings and incorporate daily household jobs where I can! I then cook tea for the 3 of us before bath and bed. My husband and I then crash and watch a bit of telly before going to sleep and doing it all again! When possible, I also try and get together with friends a few times a week for playdates.
If you could choose any profession what would you choose?
Before I had Myles I was a Bank Manager which was something I sort of fell into because I wanted to work for a large organisation. I now love working for my brother and helping him with the administration for his landscaping business.
What do you do For Fun?
Phil and I love going to rock music gigs and used to go a lot before becoming parents, we now have to be a bit more selective as it depends on getting a babysitter! Aside from that, I love spending time with my family and friends - whether it’s going for a nice walk or getting together for a meal.
What have you got planned in the next year?
We are hopefully moving house. I really would like a traditional village life. I want to walk Myles to school and be there to pick him up with home cooked meals on the table. I don't know if this is being a parent or getting a bit older!
Biggest achievement in life to date?
Without a doubt it is Myles. He is my world and the fact that we have raised such a happy and content little boy means everything to me. He makes me laugh every day and I am very proud of him.
How would you describe yourself?
Loyal, kind, honest.
When do you feel most confident?
When I have been looking after myself - exercising, eating well and feeling well. I am not naturally a very confident person but my confidence is growing.
You & Nicola Jane
Why did you decide to become a Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman?
People are often surprised at what I have been through as I am considered young. I decided to put myself forward as a Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman as I want to be there for women going through a similar time. If hearing my story helps others to not feel so alone, then that would mean a lot to me. I also wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, I have a lot of self-doubt and hope that this experience helps me to overcome a bit of it!
Why do you shop with Nicola Jane?
I trust Nicola Jane and feel that they are specialists in the underwear I need, with a selection that you just can't find on the high street.
What do you look for when purchasing a post-surgery bra?
Comfort - I cannot stand anything that presses on my scar tissue. It also needs to be pretty!
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed aged 32 on 24th August 2016, it was Myles’ 5 month birthday. I had struggled a lot with breast feeding and my breast was very uncomfortable. I went to the Doctors and they said I just needed to relax and keep trying to feed my baby, eventually I stopped feeding as my breast was still uncomfortable. I went back to the Doctors again, was given antibiotics and referred to the Breast Clinic at my local hospital which led to my diagnosis.
What type of surgery did you have?
A full mastectomy and clearance of all my lymph nodes.
How Did you Feel when you first found out?
I was in the room with my husband, with my parents and baby outside. I don't remember if I cried when I was told but know I broke down when I got into the car park. I think it was very much 'why did this have to happen to me?' / 'why now, when I have a wonderful young baby and things should be perfect?'. I was frightened of dying and leaving my family. I was also worried about how I would tell people.
Who did you turn to when you first found out and who helped you the most throughout?
Without a doubt my family and friends. I kept quite a tight circle to start with and couldn't have done it without my family. My Husband, Mum and Dad made sure I never had to go to an appointment alone and that Myles was looked after. They were my rocks, constantly reassuring me and providing me with the mental and practical support I needed. They also helped to help keep things as normal as possible for Myles.
My friends kept coming to see me, bringing frozen meals to save us cooking, giving me massages, going for walks and making me laugh and stay positive (when I was diagnosed my friend bought me a postcard that said 'I can, I will, end of story', it is still on my fridge door to this day!). I would also go and speak to my Doctor and Breast Care Nurses and they would help me be rational and provide the reassurance I needed.
My mother in law was fantastic too, she has been through the same and also volunteers at a unit at Torquay Hospital who help people going through a similar experience. She was always on the end of a phone for me and would ask the doctors there if I was worrying about anything.
Was there anything that helped you through your treatment?
Myles. He kept me focussed, brought me so much joy and gave me something else to concentrate on other than me. Even if I couldn't be 100% hands on and we couldn't always do normal things, I wanted to be up and with him every moment.
Having been through your journey, if your present self could give your past self advice on something you will experience during the time from diagnosis until now what would it be?
I think it would be that it is okay not to handle it well all of the time. I had some really low points and became very anxious about my health. Eventually after completing my treatments I started taking anti-depressants to help manage my anxiety more effectively. This has really helped me cope and I don't feel it is something to hide.
Do you have an inspirational story to share with other ladies?
After my surgery and radiotherapy, I took an oral chemotherapy drug. This affected my hands and feet very badly so couldn't do things like open bottles, windows or wear shoes (apart from trainers). I was fed up with feeling unable to do things, feeling overweight and wanted to take control of my body a bit so I decided to speak to a Personal Trainer who had qualified in training people that had been through similar illnesses and treatments to me. I called him with a view to starting training after completing my treatment but he convinced me to go in straight away. I started twice a week and felt amazing! I couldn't always do as much as I wanted because of my hands and feet but I loved it! It motivated me and made me feel strong and fit. I have lost 3 stone and still go weekly because I love feeling so much fitter than I have done in years. I jogged the Race for Life this year and felt so proud of myself, as I could only walk it slowly last year.
Do you have any post-surgery styling tips?
Don’t hide behind your clothes. I have to be careful of necklines, so they aren't too low and I did used to be inclined to go for baggier clothes but now I am enjoying wearing closer fitting styles and they make me feel so much better. I don't feel like I have to hide myself anymore and don't care too much if the scar under my arm is visible.
Any advice for other ladies who have or had breast cancer?
I think we need to respect our bodies - I exercise, try to eat healthily and organically where possible. Keeping fit makes your body stronger and helps so much mentally as well. Also I would say, be proud of yourself - it’s rubbish and not easy so give yourself a little credit now and then!