Veronique “Miss Nikki” Thomas has worked as a club bouncer, a bodyguard and a security guard. Basically, she is one tough lady. And yet, she says nothing has ever challenged her strength like the Stage 3 Breast Cancer diagnosis she received in June.
With no family or personal history of cancer, the 38-year-old single mom from Andersonville was shaken when she felt a lump in her breast over Memorial Day weekend. She thought she was too young and healthy for it to be cancer, but knew just where to find out for sure.
In her most recent position as an office manager in a surgeon’s office at Swedish Covenant Hospital, she had helped other women schedule mammograms and diagnostic tests. So she made an appointment for herself the next day.
Her biopsy revealed a cancerous tumor. She immediately underwent a lumpectomy, performed by Dr. Ashwin Shah, the surgeon in whose office she worked. He removed an 11 cm tumor from her left breast and 10 of her 11 lymph nodes. Because the tumor was larger than expected, he performed a mastectomy two days later.
Nikki is one of an estimated 210,000 American women who have been, or will be, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Since her diagnosis, she has joined the ranks of the millions of people world-wide who are dedicated to promoting breast cancer awareness, prevention research, early detection and effective treatments.
The months of chemotherapy that followed her surgeries physically and mentally challenged Nikki, but she found strength in her friends, the staff in the Breast Health Program at Swedish Covenant Hospital and family — particularly her 13-year-old daughter, Sophie, who shaved her head in support of her mother.
Today, Nikki is on her fourth round of chemotherapy and a spokesperson for Breast Cancer Awareness. She has participated in several awareness events, including a comedy show sponsored by A Silver Lining foundation. She details all her efforts on her Facebook page and often casts aside wigs and prosthetics to make an even greater impact on the women she encounters in her daily life.
“Throughout history, when warriors came home from battle, they proudly showed off their scars, and I’m doing the same. I don’t really have body image issues, so I hope people ask me about it so I can share my story,” she said. “If just one woman sees that my breast is gone, and she gets tested, then I’ve done my part.”