The responsibility rests with patients to contact CANSA for assistance. Read more...

Stories of Hope

Nikki Overcomes Malignant Melanoma at 25

Nikki S, skin cancer Survivor...

Nikki S, skin cancer Survivor…

In my ignorance, I believed skin cancer was a white person’s disease. Never had I heard of a black person having such a diagnosis. In my opinion, black people just had sensitive skin and that was that. This is what I believed, growing up.

As a kid in school I played a great deal of sports, from soccer to netball, swimming to athletics and more. My school bag was always full of water bottles, a cap, a bottle of sunblock and of course my boring books. My friends never understood why I carried sunblock. They jokingly said I just wanted to stay light skinned, but it was really because I burnt so quickly; 15 minutes was enough!

My skin and the sun had and still have a love-hate relationship. I made an effort to protect myself, but every so often I would get sunburnt. I wish someone had told me then that if you are sunburnt just a few times you run the risk of getting skin cancer. I would’ve gone for check-ups back then, if I’d known.

Come 2015, two months after my 25th birthday, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. My melanoma was found on the lateral side of my left leg and had spread to my groin area. What I thought was a beauty spot or mole, ultimately grew to four times the size and had an irregular shape. The mere sight of it made me uneasy.

Two years earlier, I hit it against the coffee table and the searing pain crippled me for over 20 minutes. The blood on the carpet was outstanding for such a small mole! I screamed, yelled and cried in pain – not caring if I looked like a real cry-baby. That was the first time I ever thought I could use a razor and cut the mole off. Ever heard of bad ideas? Well that was one of my worst bad ideas – after my self-surgery, the mole doubled in size and it looked like a huge fly on my leg!

A regular hospital check-up two years on, turned my life upside-down, with my melanoma diagnosis. My immediate thoughts were death. I was alone in the room with two doctors. I was making jokes, only because I didn’t know what else to do. I was extremely unnerved. What in the world does it mean to have skin cancer? I had just turned 25; did this mean the end of my short life? I thought that was it, I had to write a Will and I would be laid to rest one year after my father’s passing. My mother would be left alone…

To be honest, I can’t recall what my doctors said to me. My mind had checked out. I walked outside and called my partner. As soon as he arrived, I lost it. That 23-year old cry-baby was now 2-years older and still crying – even more hysterically! I curled up in a ball in the backseat of the car and cried my heart out. I couldn’t even drive myself home. So I left my car at the hospital. I had never been so frightened in my life.

It turns out my doctors had said they could operate and remove the cancer. In the beginning I went in religiously for my check-ups; determined to get rid of the cancer. But my rational self, overwhelmed my overly dramatic self, resulted in me avoiding two check-ups.

I was too scared. I woke up, got dressed, hit the highway and halfway there I would turn and go home. I was afraid of the unknown. The doctors clearly said they could help me, but at that point all I could think of was the absolute worst.

I found support and encouragement from the members of CANSA’s Champions of Hope Facebook Group for cancer Survivors & Caregivers, and I set a new appointment for the following Monday. Right there, on the spot, I was to be admitted – it happened so quickly and I was so overwhelmed I left, and returned on Tuesday for admission. On Wednesday I underwent the operation and Friday I discharged myself. I didn’t want to see myself in hospital for one more second!

Once I was brave enough to stare cancer in the face, I took it down. I thank my doctors at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital for acting so promptly. I don’t know where I would be right now if it wasn’t for my support system.

Today I am left with a (in my opinion) horrific scar on my leg and my groin. A friend of mine suggested I call the scar on my leg Ugly Betty. I had demonized my scar and he humanized it and tried to help me see that it should not consume my joy. I am cancer free and here I was worried about Ugly Betty and her sister!

It’s been an extremely trying journey. But I am better for it. Scar or not, I am cancer-free, a warrior and Survivor in my own right. And now that I’ve found out that there is a history of cancer in my family, I have made the efforts to go in and get a full body scan.

Today I am wiser, more responsible for my actions and a cancer Survivor!


« BACK


Do you have a question?