Advanced Placement Student- Nikki Speer
Name: Nikki Speer
Age (at preventative double mastectomy): 31
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? My family history of breast cancer led me to ask a lot of questions with my mom’s plastic surgeon and oncologist
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? My hardest moments have been watching an aunt, grandmother and a mother all pass away from complications with breast cancer.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? My faith is very strong- it hasn’t always been as I was pretty angry when my mom was diagnosed a second time with breast cancer, but I see now that all things were working together. Reaching out to others and sharing experiences is really helpful too.
How did your family and friends respond? I can imagine some people thought it was taking it too far- removing my breasts but I know my mom, aunts and grandmother who had breast cancer were so proud of me. Now that my 3 children understand what I did they are grateful. My husband Gerrod was and still is my biggest supporter!
Have you created any meaning out of this experience? If so, what was it/how did you do it? In October 2015 when my mom decided to stop chemotherapy I took on a huge task. I promised her I would design clothing for her to wear (for her body that was ravaged by breast cancer- open wounds from her neck to her torso, no breasts, big arms and a big belly). Unfortunately she was never able to wear any of the clothing because she passed away just two short months after the promise. We have now designed a post op shirt, chemotherapy shawl and 4 shirts for breastless women. Our company is called Redefined Courage, Inc.
How did/do you find joy during this experience? Knowing I have been through the surgery (7 years ago) and I can help others with questions, watching and caring for family that was battling breast cancer and designing practical garments brings me so much joy. Helping others in a time of great need is a blessing.
How are you healing from this experience? Healing is a process both physically and emotionally. I have experienced great loss within my family and I also experience pain almost everyday in my chest because of my surgery. I think my gratefulness keeps me going. Knowing I am here to make a difference because of the challenges I have faced.
If you could give any advice to another man or woman going through the same experience that you have, what would it be? If you are a cancer survivor or previvor like myself surrounding yourself with people that will emotionally and physically be there for you is your greatest treasure. Everyday you won’t feel like a fighter or feel like being courageous but when you have others speaking life into you it encourages you to keep moving forward. Faith- Faith in knowing that something good whether it be new friends or circumstances can come out of bad situations.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it? Yes I have learned that even terrible things can be used for good. It’s all a matter of how you choose to look at it.
"In June 2006 when my mom, Virginia, age 55 was diagnosed with breast cancer it was the beginning not only of her journey, but of my own as well. This unfortunately wasn't the first time I heard about breast cancer as two of my maternal aunts and my maternal grandmother had all been diagnosed with some form of breast cancer.
My mom went through a trans flap surgery, chemo and radiation and was doing well beside some tiredness and a new found body.
I had one more child in 2007 and began researching preventative surgeries for myself. June 2010 I had a prophylactic mastectomy with reconstruction and in November of 2011 My mom was diagnosed again at her 5 year check up. She had more radiation, chemo, surgeries and eventually her breasts removed and the cancer affecting her skin. She had open wounds all over her torso.
October 2015 I was spending time with her after she decided she no longer wanted any treatment and we went shopping for clothes to wear. She was so sad when we walked out of the mall that she couldn't find anything for her flat chested, big armed and belly body. In that moment I promised her I would design clothing for her to wear.
I have kept my promise to my mom event though she passed away just two short months after that. I, along with my husband have founded Redefined Courage, Inc where we design clothing for beautiful breast cancer survivors. It is a daily reminder of my mom and the truth that good can come from bad situations.
We offer a post op shirts which is one of my favorites because it is something every mastectomy patient could use as it has drain pockets and is button up for the limited mobility in your arms. I know mom and I wish we had one to wear home from the hospital!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story! Many blessings to you!"