A brave mum who battled breast cancer two years after having life-saving open-heart surgery is urging women in Edinburgh to join her at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life Pretty Muddy event in the capital later this week to help find a cure for the disease.
It will be a poignant moment for Nikki Martin, 35, as she steps up on stage to sound the starters’ klaxon as the VIP starter at the mud-splattered event on Saturday.
She has been in good health for two years but says she never takes it for granted after two serious illnesses–breast cancer and a threatened aortic aneurysm-in just two years.
School learning assistant Nikki suffers from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the soft connective tissue. It affected her aortic valve, with a build-up of pressure putting her at high-risk of a potentially-deadly aneurysm. In October 2013 she had open-heart surgery – involving a 12-inch incision the length of her chest – to clear a blockage.
Nikki, of Easthouses, Midlothian, spent nine-weeks in recovery and her cardiac check-ups all looked good. But in June 2015, there was another blow to come.
She explained: “I felt quite a large lump in my left breast one morning, just as I was putting on my bra. I think I knew right away what it was, I just felt something wasn’t quite right.
“Weeks later, when I was sitting with the consultant at Edinburgh’s Western General telling me I had cancer, I was sort of expecting it. It’s strange, but I felt relieved in a way – relieved that I knew what it was and that we could start doing something about it.”
Mum to three boys–seven-year-old Finlay and six-year-old twins Masyn and Dylan–as well as being step-mum to 13-year-old Amy, Nikki’s immediate concern was making sure she could still be there for them. Along with husband David, 37, a car valeter, she sat the children down and explained, in as simple terms as she could, that mummy was sick.
She said: “I tried to be as upbeat as I could and explained that mummy was going to have to take some really strong medicine to make her better. I made a big joke of the fact that it was going to make me bald and they all laughed at that. It’s the only way I knew how to get through it.
“When the treatment kicked in and I was having low days, the boys were amazing. They’d come and check on me in bed, bring me drinks, or just appear at the door and say ‘we’ve come to give you a cuddle mummy’. It’s what got me through. They were amazing, so was David.”
Nikki’s treatment took the form of immediate chemotherapy, which doctors hoped would shrink her 4.5cms tumour ahead of surgery. She went through eight months of difficult treatment, and lost her hair along the way. But the doctors’ plan worked and there was virtually no tumour left to remove when she had a lumpectomy in December 2015.
Five weeks of radiotherapy followed Nikki’s surgery throughout January and February 2016 and at her end-of-treatment scan there was no sign of the cancer. She has been scanned regularly since and there’s been no sign of the disease returning.
Nikki knows first-hand just how important it is to fund research into new and more effective treatments for the disease. That’s why she signed up to run Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life in June this year and is now looking forward to taking part in Race For Life Pretty Muddy on Saturday.
She added: “We need to keep fighting to find a cure for this awful disease. New developments are being made all the time and we’ve got to keep pushing for a cure. I’m in a far better position than a woman who was diagnosed, say, 10 or 20 years ago, because of all the research that’s been done. I hope that one day we’re not so afraid of cancer, that’s it a disease that’s entirely curable.
Entries are still open for Race for Life Pretty Muddy Edinburgh, the 5K and 10K mud-splattered obstacle course that women of all ages and fitness levels can climb over, crawl under and charge through. Space hoppers, scramble nets and inflatable slides all feature in the women only event on September 22 at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.
Nikki will sound the horn for the start of the 10K event at 10.30am while those taking part in the 5K will set off from 10.45am. Earlier, at 9.45am at the same venue, boys and girls aged between five and 12 can take part in Pretty Muddy Kids.
Further information can be found at https://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org.