My name is Nicole and this is my cancer journey...
I don't remember much at all, but from what I am told, it was early in the morning of Sunday 27 of April 2011 and I had been competing at the Surf Life Saving State Competition all day at Moana. l got home, had a shower and dinner and went to bed early to try and get lots of rest to be ready for day two.
Before I went to bed I had the worst headache I had ever had but eventually fell asleep. After that, l don't remember anything although my mum tells me that she came in to say goodbye before she went to work and l mumbled a see you later.
"As she was about to leave, for some reason and she doesn't have any idea why she did but she come back to my room to check on me and this was when she realised all was not right."
She told me to shut my eyes as she was going to turn the light on and was shocked when she saw what I looked like. Apparently my left side wasn't working at all, but I didn't realise this and tried to get up but couldn't. l must have still been with it a bit, because when the ambulance came and the paramedics were stabilizing me, I made sure I had my phone. l wasn't leaving without it.
My mum said both the paramedic and the emergency doctor had said that migraines could present with these symptoms when they were bad enough so she wasn't too worried, however, when they bought me back from the CAT scan and the doctor wanted to speak to her in another room.
"She said she just knew it wasn't going to be good news, and of course it wasn't."
The worst was still to come, because I started to crash and had to be rushed into surgery. When the doctors came into to see my mum and brother afterwards, they weren't confident that I would make it through the night. Devastating news for them, but they both said she's a fighter of course she will and then when they saw what they had done to my hair.
"They said she'll come out of this and the person who shaved her head had better beware."
Other than that my only memories from hospital, were when I woke up and was determined to go to day two of State Competition. I had been in an induced coma for 6 days after I had a drain put in my brain, although I thought it was the morning for States day two and tried to go. I quickly faced the facts and became aware of what happened.
The first was that they had shaved part of my hair for the drain! This upset me alot and after having a shower I worked out that I could change my part and hide it.
"My older brother Shaun, shaved the same spot on his head in sympathy with me, when he came in the next day he showed me what he had done."
His words were "Oh I didn't think that one through did I?" which was true, here he was with a chunk of hair missing at the front and he couldn't hide it, where as I could. So when I thought it was impossible to laugh, I still managed.
My family and friends were very supportive before and after I received the news. They made sure someone was always in the hospital with me, so I was never alone! When I was a little more with it and feeling better a lot of our family friends from the surf club came in with me and bought me lots of presents and were very supportive of me. To cope with the news I had been given, I pretty much put my head in the sand and didn't want to listen to anything they had to say.
"I think I was still in shock and it was my way of coping."
After I was moved from Flinders Medical Centre to the Woman and Children’s for Rehab was when it hit me. I had gone from a very new and kid friendly area to the Woman and Children’s where it is quite different.
I had a brain biopsy on 19 May 2011, this was to help the doctors determine what grade tumour it was. The night after the biopsy (20 May) was our surf lifesaving dinner annual awards night. I was determined to be able to go out for the night, my doctor laughed at my determination and said I would be the earliest he’s ever let a patient out after surgery. I was so happy that because I was let out of hospital.
"I always felt like nothing was wrong with me, once I was out of there. I just went back to trying to life my life normally and through the support of my family and friends I was able to do that!"
I think the fact that they treated me no differently helped make me feel normal and continue in my world of nothing was wrong and I was still the same healthy person I was before the bleed.
Getting back into my sports was another big incentive to getting my old life back on track. At first I was upset at how much my stamina and fitness and deteriorated. But after rehab and through the help of my coaches and teammates I was getting better quickly.
"I found setting goals each week during rehab benefited me hugely."
Rehab was a weird time for me I never imagined myself needing rehab. When I told people I was in rehab they would give me funny looks, but due to rehab, I made a full physical recovery I didn't drag my feet.
My left side became stronger again and my balance got a lot better, I didn't fall over or bump into everything.
I loved the water so much they set hydro therapy up for me (which is exercise done in a pool) and I felt a lot more comfortable to push my rehab sessions in the pool because I knew what I was like before and wanted to get back to it!
Rehab on land was a weird experience for me, I had never thought I would be as tough learning how to run and kick things again, but when I had regained all those skills I noticed how much different it was. Here I was thinking I was fine and nothing was wrong with me physical and not wanting rehab.