How medical experts gave Nikki a second chance at life

‘I was given a chance to fight this cancer.’
Nikki and her family.jpg

‘I was given a chance to fight this cancer’

Nikki was just 42 when she was told she had stage 4 ovarian cancer and that nothing could be done to treat it. Completely distraught, Nikki decided to explore whether she could get a second opinion elsewhere.

Following a conversation with her healthcare insurer, Nikki was referred to a specialist at HCA Healthcare UK and from here, she was told that there were treatments available to her to increase her chances of survival. After undergoing a number of treatments, Nikki is now one year cancer-free and is able to think about the future once more. 

Here, she shares an important story about how access to the very best medical minds, her personal determination and a big dose of support from her loved ones has helped her get to where she is today.

Back in late 2019, Nikki, a mother of two from Waltham Abbey, Essex was experiencing mild bloating, and after speaking to her GP several times, it was attributed to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that any other health problems arose – namely some breathlessness which continued to worsen.

“Because of the pandemic, when I first became breathless, I thought I could have contracted COVID-19, but after my test came back as negative, I went back to my doctor once more and explained my symptoms. He suspected I had bronchitis and gave me a dose of antibiotics, but when that failed to clear it up, I returned to him again,” Nikki added.

After visiting her doctor for a second time about her worsening breathlessness, he gave her a stronger dose of antibiotics, but also referred her for a chest X-ray. It was during this X-ray that Nikki was told by the radiographer that she had consolidation on her lung, and that she should visit A&E.

She added: “I had an ultrasound at A&E and was told that half of my lung was filled with fluid. I was asked to come back the next day so that a sample of fluid could be taken. I was then booked in for a CT scan five days later, but in the time that I waited for the scan, my breathlessness worsened and I was taken again to A&E. A drain was fitted to my lung and five litres of fluid was removed.” 

A devastating diagnosis

In a consultation with her doctor at the hospital, she was told that the fluid in her lungs contained cancer cells. After undergoing a CT scan, she was taken into a private room with her partner Steve and told that she had stage 4 ovarian cancer, which had spread to the lining of her womb and to her lungs, and that nothing could be done to treat it now that the cancer had spread. After being told she was terminal, Nikki was devastated by this incomprehensible diagnosis.

"I was inconsolable. I was worried for my parents, for my children, for my partner – when I first heard the diagnosis, I was ready to give everything I had to fight the cancer, but to be told there was nothing that could be done, I just couldn’t believe it."

Unable to accept that nothing could be done to treat her, she knew she had private medical insurance with Bupa through her work, and so contacted them to see if she could access care privately. Through a recommendation, Nikki was aware of a specialist named Mr David Lawrence, a Cardiothoracic Consultant who practices privately at The Harley Street Clinic, The Princess Grace Hospital and The Wellington Hospital, all part of HCA Healthcare UK.

‘When she told me that in fact it was treatable, I felt such a wave of relief’

Through Bupa, she was able to speak with Mr Lawrence. After her first consultation with him, she instantly felt reassured: “The minute I walked into The Wellington Hospital and met him, he said that he would do everything he possibly could to give me the very best care. I felt immediately reassured – it honestly felt like he was my knight in shining armour who was there at a time when I needed that reassurance most.”

Mr Lawrence swiftly arranged biopsies and histology and referred Nikki to Dr Mary Mccormack, Consultant Oncologist at Leaders in Oncology Care (LOC), also part of HCA UK. After taking a look at all of her results, Dr Mccormack was able to confirm that while the fluid in her lungs did contain cancer cells, once this had been drained, there were no remaining cancer cells in Nikki’s lungs. This meant that whilst she had stage 4a ovarian cancer, it was treatable. 

“I had built up to this moment, to speaking to Mary and knowing that whatever she said – that would be it. Her first words to me were ‘You have ovarian cancer, it’s the most common kind and it’s treatable.’ I felt such a wave of relief. I knew I had a long way to go, but I was being given a chance to fight this cancer,” added Nikki.

It was during this first consultation with Mary that Nikki also met Johanna, her Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and the person who would go on to provide an invaluable level of support during an incredibly worrying time.

Within a week of this first meeting, Nikki started her first cycle of chemotherapy and after three cycles, the cancer was contained and she was referred to Miss Adeola Olaitan, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at The Harley Street Clinic, also part of HCA UK. In November 2020, Nikki underwent complex surgery to remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb, cervix and omentum. The surgery was a complete success and Nikki was then referred back to Dr Mccormack for more chemotherapy to ensure that any cancerous cells that may have been left behind were targeted. In January 2021, Nikki was given the news that she had been waiting for – that she was clear of cancer. 

“Hearing that I was cancer free was the most wonderful news. Although I knew that my experience was far from over, as I would need to go on a cancer maintenance drug to keep the cancer at bay, and there was still a 75% chance that the cancer could return, it was a huge step forward for me and my family.”

Reaching the one-year milestone

In January 2022, Nikki hit the next milestone in her recovery – being one year cancer free. Commenting on this milestone, she added: “I am immensely grateful to the expertise of Mr Lawrence, Dr Mccormack and Miss Olaitan. The speed in which I was able to be seen by all three specialists, and the way they connected my care with the HCA UK healthcare system – without their combined efforts, I know very well that I would not have been here to tell the tale.”

“I must also say how much the care of my Clinical Nurse Specialist Johanna helped me along the way, and my partner too. On our first meeting with her, she gave us her personal phone number and said we could call with any questions or worries whenever we wanted to. I remember one time calling her in the evening whilst she was putting her children to bed and she called us back immediately and was able to answer our questions and offer such invaluable advice. She would also always check on me after each of my chemotherapy sessions to see if I was doing OK. I don’t just consider her part of my medical team, I now consider her a close friend.”

On what the future holds for Nikki and what she would say to others who are concerned, she added: “I'm alive, I'm here to tell the tale and I want to raise awareness. You see things on social media, telling you to check yourself for cancer, but you often don't pay much attention as you think 'it won't happen to me'”. 

“No matter how small or insignificant you think your health concern is, it’s always worth investigating it - don't put off seeing your doctor or GP if you’re concerned. I would also say that people shouldn’t be scared to seek a second opinion either. If I’d have listened to the first consultant I spoke to, I might not be here today.”

“I think the importance of remaining positive shouldn’t be underestimated either. Yes, the cancer could come back, but I have been given another chance at life and I’m going to take it and enjoy it!”

For more information about ovarian cancer, visit 

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