My Breast cancer journey – Indescribable fear to a remarkable recovery


As a former elite/springbok athlete you can just imagine the shock and fear when hearing the words you have cancer. Cancer strikes fear into the very depths of your soul. This is My Breast cancer journey – Incredible fear to a remarkable recovery.

The question I asked myself. Why me?

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, married to Chris Fuller a dentist and avid runner himself. I have two gorgeous boys and I come from a sporting family with good sporting genes. My father was a former Springbok athlete and my mom was a provincial netball player. I went on to receive my Springbok colours for track, cross country and road running, where I represented SA at six world half marathon championships . Winning many South African titles on the track and road and I qualified for the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympic games in the woman’s marathon. Unfortunately due to politics I was not selected for the final team.

Life was good and pretty normal when I found the swelling in my upper left breast. Deep down I somehow knew it was cancer, but did not really want to believe it. I have always lead a healthy lifestyle and yet I still got breast cancer. Cancer does not discriminate.

I was privileged to have world class medical treatment, from my initial diagnosis which was a mammogram, ultrasound and a core needle biopsy, two weeks later I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I had a remarkable recovery from breast cancer due to my fitness and what my running has taught me, discipline, commitment and perseverance, as well as the power of positivity. Walking and training on my elliptical trainer two weeks post surgery and running again after my 5 week check up.

I had incredible support from my friends and family, my incredible surgeons and oncologist as well as the Breast Health Foundation. At a breast cancer awareness event during Pink October 2017, just two months after my mastectomy, I heard my surgeon Prof Carol-Ann Benn give a very inspiring talk. The seed was planted. I thought that by sharing my story I could educate, motivate and inspire other breast cancer patients and survivors. I went on to do a public speaking course and also discovered patient navigation. Navigation is the individualized assistance given to patients and their families to help them overcome and navigate the many barriers faced on the very daunting cancer journey. I have completed certifications in breast cancer advocacy and oncology patient navigation from the Breast Health Foundation SA, The George Washington University, Washington U.S.A. The Cancer Exercise Training Institute (CETI.) U.S.A.

I am also extremely privileged to be doing practical navigation training at the Helen Joseph Breast care Clinic being mentored and guided by Prof Benn and her Breast Health Foundation. i have just been accepted to write the AONN Academy of Nurse and Patient Navigators Generalist exam in the U.S.A later this year.

I May have had certain advantages but I also had disadvantages. Cancer is a battle I won and so can you!

Nicole Fuller
Author: Nicole Fuller

I am a former elite/springbok distance runner, Oncology Patient Navigator, Breast Cancer Exercise training specialist, speaker and Breast Cancer Survivor