Nikki Jenkins works as a professional bikini fitness model, so her body is part of her job.
Along with keeping fit, it also means 39-year-old Nikki is aware of what’s going on in her body.
When she noticed a lump on her ankle, she went to A&E to get it checked, initially thinking she had bumped it.
This January trip to the hospital resulted in Nikki being told that she had a benign cyst that would clear up on its own.
However when the cyst grew in size Nikki, from Aintree, was sent for further tests with a GP, and was told it was something more serious.
By May, she was undergoing treatment for a rare tumour called Plemomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma, and by September was given the all clear.
At the end of October, though, she was told that the cancer had come back and spread to her lungs, and she was given just 12 months to live.
Nikki told the Liverpool Echo: ‘It’s like a movie, it doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me.
‘I’ve got no symptoms. If I hadn’t had to go to the doctors for check-ups because of the tumour in my ankle I would have been completely unaware.
‘I’ve got no breathing problems, I’ve been running in the gym and doing normal stuff. When they told me I was really shocked. I’d expect someone with lung cancer to be coughing all the time and look ill but I’m not.’
Nikki is now undergoing chemotherapy to try and prevent the spread of her stage four lung cancer.
Despite the diagnosis and the limited options available to her on the NHS, Nikki is determined to find alternative treatments through private health care.
Nikki said: ‘When I’ve been looking into it I’ve found a couple of different options for treatments but they’re only available privately which is expensive.
‘So far I’ve found an immunotherapy and a protontherapy for my type of cancer but they are only available privately. I need to work out what the best course of action is to take.
‘I’m trying to deal with having chemo and the emotional impact it’s having on my family and doing the research on top.’
Common symptoms of Plemomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma
- Persistent lump or swelling in the body that may be painful
- Bulging of the eye or a drooping eyelid
- Headache and nausea
- Trouble urinating or having bowel movements
- Blood in the urine
- Earache or sinus infection symptoms
- Bleeding from the nose, throat, vagina, or rectum
- Abdominal pain
It’s worth noting, however, that it often shows no symptoms until the tumour is already very large.
The athlete is now also trying to cope with the side effects of her treatment.
She said: ‘I said it wasn’t going to bother me when my hair comes out during the chemo but when it actually happened I was so upset. It happens so fast after having it. You’re just brushing your hair and it comes out. I never imagined being ill like this.’
It’s hard for Nikki to deal with going from a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise and eating well, to knowing that she may not last a year.
As a result, her and her family are doing everything they can to cling on to hope, including asking anyone with information on Plemomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma to come forward, and raising money for an alternative treatment.
Nikki said: ‘Anything at all will help and I’m very grateful for anything. It just gives me hope that I can do something about this because being told that you could be dead in twelve months time is grim.’
Nikki’s niece Keeley Ray, who is helping her to raise money along with the rest of her family, said: ‘It’s been devastating for all of us, none of us expected this to happen.
‘Nikki’s whole life has been dedicated to health and fitness. She’s travelled around the world with her career, competing in bikini body building competitions.
‘She’s always in the gym and eats healthy and has an amazing physique so for this to happen is a massive shock.’
Keeley added: ‘But she’s been so strong about it all. She’s determined to find a treatment and none of us are going to give up.
‘We’re going to do a lot of different fund raising as a family and if people can give anything like can and if not if they can share it we’d be so grateful.’
To donate to the fundraiser set up to help Nikki fight lung cancer click here.
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