“Although I knew lumps and breast changes shouldn’t be left unnoticed, I didn’t know it could happen to someone as young as me.”
Nikhar was 24 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2020, a moment that changed her life forever. It was the month of Ramadan; a time of reflection, gratitude and compassion which Nikhar has observed her whole life. However, this year was different for her, as she faced a breast cancer diagnosis whilst living away from her family. Born in Norway, she moved to Pakistan when she young. After finishing her Bachelor’s in Law in Pakistan, she headed to London for further studies.
It was a tough journey with surgery and treatment, but she beat it and enjoyed three cancer-free years. The pandemic kept her in London, where she completed her Masters, balancing it all with medical appointments.
Nikhar aims to spread awareness about breast cancer and started sharing her story on Instagram and YouTube, to inspire others like her — to fight and hold on to hope.
Team Sunday had the chance to interview Nikhar exclusively and learn about her unwavering resilience and strength.
Sunday Exclusive Interview With Nikhar Azmat
Can you share your diagnosis journey? When, and how did you find out about your Cancer?
At the age of 24, I stumbled upon my breast lump almost by chance, brushing my arm against it during a late-night moment. Though not visible, I could feel something amiss. That discovery led me to my diagnosis of breast cancer, alone in my bedroom during lockdown. Coming to terms with it was incredibly difficult. Fear, loneliness, and guilt swirled within me. A mastectomy with implant reconstruction was the necessary step to remove the cancer, thankfully, without lymph node involvement, sparing me from chemotherapy. However, radiotherapy followed for about a month after surgery, a demanding ordeal both physically and mentally, especially being far from family, making positivity a challenge.After this, I was put on hormone therapy for 10 years and gradually resumed normal life, even starting work. Despite knowing the heightened risk of a recurrence over the next 5 years, I was in remission for almost 3 years. Then, during my annual check-ups in 2023, they discovered a shadow in my lungs. Further investigation revealed the breast cancer had resurfaced and spread. The biopsy confirmed it as secondary breast cancer—an incurable but manageable condition that means I’ll have active cancer in my body for life. I’ve begun oral chemo, aware that its effects can vary widely from person to person. Doctors will monitor my body’s response, with lung scans every 3 months to assess stability. The goal is to halt further progression. If the cancer cells resist treatment, we’ll adjust the chemo combination, striving for the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.
View this post on Instagram
You are such an inspiration for millions in the way you have documented your journey, how do you remain optimistic?
Staying optimistic throughout my cancer journey is rooted in gratitude, a strong support system, faith in Allah and a positive mindset. Sharing my story on platforms like Instagram and YouTube gives me purpose and the potential to inspire others. Taking care of my well-being through self-care practices and accepting the realities of my diagnosis are also crucial. I find joy in everyday moments and engage in activities that fulfil me. Educating myself and others about my condition empowers me, and faith provides comfort and strength. Optimism, for me, is about facing challenges with hope and a positive outlook, while still acknowledging the difficulties.
What advice would you give to someone who has recently been diagnosed, to help navigate through the journey?
Being diagnosed with cancer is undeniably overwhelming, but remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Seek knowledge, seek support, and be an active participant in your healthcare decisions. Take care of your mental and physical well-being, and celebrate every small victory along the way. You’re stronger than you think, and there’s hope in every step forward. Trust in yourself, trust in your healthcare team, and take it one day at a time.
Can you describe your support system during your treatment and diagnosis, and how has that impacted your journey?
My family and friends have been my unwavering support throughout this journey. Despite the fear in my parents’ eyes, they’ve been the pillars of my strength. My friends, especially during my initial diagnosis, kept me laughing and uplifted, which was vital for my morale. During radiotherapy, a different friend and my brother awaited me with flowers each day, providing a heartwarming surprise. My brother, my closest confidant, has stood by me at every step. Now, facing a long-term battle with cancer, I’m overwhelmed by the global support and prayers. I firmly believe in the power of faith and strength granted by Allah during challenging times.
Which alarming signs must women look out for to reach a timely diagnosis?
Early detection of breast cancer is paramount for effective treatment. Women should be mindful of any changes in their breasts, such as lumps, skin alterations, nipple abnormalities, or unexplained pain. If any of these signs are noticed, seeking prompt medical attention can make a significant difference in the outcome of treatment. Breast cancer does not discriminate by gender or age; it can affect anyone. All individuals have breast tissue, making regular self-examination vital. Taking a few minutes once a month, whether in the shower or at any convenient time, can familiarise you with what’s normal for your body. This knowledge empowers you to recognize any anomalies promptly. While not every lump or rash is indicative of breast cancer, seeking professional evaluation is always advisable. Early diagnosis significantly enhances survival rates, underlining the critical importance of breast cancer awareness in saving lives.
During Pinktober, we urge everyone to prioritize their health by getting tested for breast cancer. Early detection is crucial in the fight against this disease, and regular screenings can save lives. Don’t delay, schedule your mammogram and self-examinations, because taking care of your health is an empowering and vital step towards a brighter, cancer-free future!