IN AUGUST 2021, Nicole Armstrong was forced into battle.   

Leaning across the kitchen bench, she noticed a lump in her right breast – one that would soon be deemed cancerous.

For the mother-of-three, it came as a complete and utter shock.

Not because she was one of the 55 Australians diagnosed with the devastating disease on any given day, but because of the journey she had already been on. It’s a medical history not many could fathom.  

Nicole’s first challenge came at the age of 40. She suffered a mini stroke, which also identified a heart condition. While common, she was fitted with a defibrillator to help combat it.

Seven years later, when a visit to the doctors turned into an admission to hospital, she was met with another hurdle – urgent need of a heart transplant.

With Nicole’s condition, the chances of requiring a new heart were about one percent. She found herself in the small minority, but lucky enough to receive a transplant within six weeks.

So, when a Triple Negative diagnosis – the same as her mother’s, who has survived breast cancer twice – was added to Nicole’s already extensive medical records, it hit hard.

“Initially, I think I cried for two weeks,” Nicole told Melbourne Media.

“I’ve had medical issues in the past and I think in my mind, I thought: ‘There’s no way I could have breast cancer as well.’

“I had a heart transplant eight years ago and my reaction to that and having breast cancer have been quite different.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was convinced that it was this that was going to take me out.

“I’ve been through this amazing, extraordinary experience of having a transplant, and then having breast cancer it was just like: ‘Surely not, after going through all of that.’”

Nicole’s emotions quickly shifted into focusing on what she needed to do – fight.

She underwent a single mastectomy and began treatment in isolation, which was aided with watching her beloved Demons achieve premiership success.

Her son Max was among her biggest supporters, there for his mum in her time of need, through what was already a busy period.

“I do remember when Mum broke the news about having breast cancer,” Max said.

“It was in the middle of year 12 last year. Obviously, there was a lot on my plate, dealing with school, dealing with mum’s breast cancer and just COVID as well.

“But she is the most inspirational person I’ve ever met.

“The heart transplant was big enough, and then breast cancer as well was just a cherry on top.”

Since her diagnosis, Nicole has been met with even more challenges; from losing her hair to being denied a breast reconstruction due to her medical history.

While these have tested her, she has only grown stronger as a result.

“I’ve processed it, I guess, as I’ve processed everything else, and just got on with the job,” Nicole said.

“I’ve had to do what I had to do to get well.

“Resilience is part of the game and you do have to get up every morning, face the day, dust yourself off and give it another crack.”

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This week will see Nicole celebrate Melbourne’s ongoing partnership with Breast Cancer Network Australia as the 2022 Pink Lady Match Ambassador.

The annual game will see the Demons once again get behind all Australians impacted by the disease – it’s estimated that 20,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.  

To mark the occasion, Melbourne will proudly wear pink socks and run out to a Guard of Honour full of breast cancer survivors and families of loved ones lost to the disease.   

And in a further show of support, umpires will wear pink wrist bands and incorporate pink flags into proceedings.  

This year will also see the return of a ‘Mini-Field of Women’. Stationed outside Gate 2, attendees will have the opportunity to write a special tribute, in honour of someone who has been impacted, for the first time since 2019.   

In 2022, BCNA and Melbourne are again inviting everyone to help fill the Virtual Pink Lady on the ‘G. 

Following the success of last year’s campaign, supporters can buy a virtual place for $25, getting behind the special cause. 

STAND WITH BCNA VIRTUALLY ON THE ‘G

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BCNA | Nicole Armstrong's story

BCNA Ambassador Nicole Armstrong shares her inspiring story after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021

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