Nikki's story - getting back to the happy, smiley person I was before - Maggie's Centres

Nikki's story – getting back to the happy person I was before

Wednesday 15 January 2020
Maggie's Cheltenham

Cancer has taken so much away from me but I'm starting to get back on track thanks to Maggie's.

My diagnosis

Before my cancer diagnosis, life was lovely. I’m happily married, my boys have lovely girlfriends, I had lovely friends, I liked my job, we’d go on holiday. And then a bomb hit.  

I was diagnosed with HER2 which is an aggressive breast cancer that required aggressive treatment.

I had two operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and Herceptin injections. All the chemo drugs made me feel so ill. I was very poorly and spent quite a bit of time in hospital with infections. 

My dad’s death and then a burglary  

The week after my second operation I had a phone call to say get to the hospital quickly, because my dad was really poorly.  

He was fit as a fiddle so it was a massive shock. By the time they were getting ready to take him into theatre, his condition had got so much worse that there was nothing they could do.  

When I was taken up to see him, he was in the same bay as I had been the week before. We had to let him go and it was just completely numbing, I don’t think I’ve really processed what happened yet. 

I was there for a couple of hours with my dad. When I went home, I discovered my house had been burgled.  

Because of the operation, I couldn’t wear my usual jewellery. So all my wedding rings and jewellery had been at home. All my jewellery of sentimental value that my Nan, Mum and Dad had ever given me was gone.  

Coming to Maggie’s 

Because of everything that had happened as I was going through treatment, I was numb and was surviving on adrenaline. So when I first came into Maggie’s, I just crashed.

It’s a well-oiled machine. Someone took me off to talk, someone gave me a cup of tea, and then they just listened to what I had to say and what I needed.  

There are different things going on at Maggie’s; different groups and meetings going on. If you’re having a bad time you can disappear off to chat to one of the staff. As I’ve got more confident in here and got to know people, I’ve sat round the table more often. I can talk and get things that are worrying me off my mind. 

We all have different cancers, but we actually have much the same worries.  

Sometimes I find it easier to talk to people around the kitchen table at Maggie’s then I do my own family.

Talking to a Benefits Advisor at Maggie's

When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t too worried about the money side of things. I’m a project manager for two district councils, and I never thought for a second that I was going to stay ill. But when I went back to work, I couldn’t remember anything. I had “chemo brain”. I was getting more and more stressed with this.  

Shalima, Maggie’s Benefits Advisor, has really helped me with the financial side of things.

She’s helped me with getting ESA – Employment Support Allowance – which I’d never even heard of and is based on the fact I’ve always paid my National Insurance.

Because of my walking and all the different things I can’t do, I’m also entitled to PIP – Personal Independence Plan – so I get a bit of money from that now as well. This money has been such a huge help and takes some of the pressure off our finances. 

I was unsure about talking to a benefits advisor at first, I didn’t think it was for me.  

It’s not a benefit, it’s an essential and we needed it. I’d encourage anyone to come in, it’s so easy. I had no idea I was entitled to ESA and PIP and it’s made such a difference.

Looking forward

Cancer has taken so much from me. It has taken my confidence away from me. Massively. It took away me being able to grieve for my dad.

It’s meant we have to sell the house, because we don’t have the money. I’m having to go back to work part-time because I physically can’t do it, so that takes away my standing in work. It’s taken away what I look like and my identity.   

But Maggie’s feels like a big, furry blanket that’s wrapped around me and made me feel safe whilst all of this has been going on. With the help of Maggie’s I’m now looking forward and getting back to that happy, smiley person I was before.  

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