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My Story - Nicola Tracey

In July 2018, I was 38, a wife and mum of 2 young girls. I was a project manager at an insurance company. I loved the gym, running, socialising and being with my family. Life was full, busy and good. One day, I felt a twinge in my left boob and upon investigation I could feel a large lump in a dense part of my breast. I had no history of breast cancer in my family, I breast fed both my girls and I was fit and well. My risk factors were practically zero.

Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I underwent 6 rounds of chemotherapy, a single mastectomy with full node clearance and 15 lots of radiotherapy. I had a complete response to treatment and was sent on my way to go and live my life.

I felt like I had been through a whirlwind and spat out the other end. I returned to work, my hair was growing back, but I always had the fear of recurrence. I started a blog called ‘Life after Donald’ to try and express how hard the rebuild was.


At the start of lockdown in 2020, my left hand felt a bit numb. I thought it was down to my lymphoedema (another gift from cancer treatment) but brain scans revealed I had two brain tumours. The cancer was back and it turned out it had never gone away completely. The cells hid in my brain and grew silently. I was now stage 4. Having incurable/terminal cancer in your brain is terrifying and I felt like a noose was put around my neck.


In the last 18 months I have had a craniotomy, targeted brain radiotherapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, whole brain radiotherapy and lots of horrid steroids! I have been told of progression about 4 times now.  I don’t cry anymore, I ask what are we going to do about it?

The girls are now almost 11 and 13 and they are amazing. For them cancer in their life is ‘normal’. Dinner still needs to be made, shopping still needs to be done, housework is always there so as long as I am able to, and I try and keep things as normal as possible. I am not able to work or drive anymore and I have a huge sense of loss. I’ve lost my independence, my fitness, my health, my identity and purpose. My focus is on survival and taking things one day at a time. I try to stay positive and my sense of humour has helped but what has helped me the most is acceptance. I can’t control what has happened, it is not my fault, but what I can control is how I react to it and I refuse to be miserable. I have to be my own advocate and fight for the best treatments, or challenge when I think something is wrong.


I live scan to scan and just hope that existing and new treatments will keep me alive for as long as possible. I never checked my boobs regularly as I didn’t think I was at risk so I hope by sharing my story other women will check themselves. I asked ‘why me?’ when I was first diagnosed, but I have come to realise...why not me?