A new phase of life awaits for Donegal’s Nikki Bradley, who has announced a major medical decision this week.
The well-known adaptive adventurer and cancer survivor is to have her right leg amputated.
Her choice was prompted by the unbearable pain she suffers every day, as a result of injuries caused by cancer treatment as a teenager.
Nikki’s life changed forever when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer at 16. Her right hip was permanently damaged by radiotherapy. She has had two hip replacements so far. She uses crutches every day, but amputation was always going to be in her future.
Now aged 35, the time has come for Nikki to take on her most difficult challenge yet, to move forward with the procedure.
“It doesn’t have to be bad or depressing. It’s the next phase of my life and who knows, it could turn out to be the best yet,” Nikki tells Donegal Woman.
Nikki, who is a motivational speaker and works with Triathlon Ireland, has made the headlines for never letting her disability hold her back from achieving amazing feats. She has climbed glaciers in Iceland, abseiled off Fanad Lighthouse and completed the infamous Fan Dance 24km march across the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Her challenges have been part of her ‘Fighting Fit For Ewing’s’ campaign, where she shows survivors that, despite setbacks, she found ways to continue doing what she loves.
It was only recently that she reached such a level of pain that her quality of life was deteriorating. Small things like getting into her car and putting on her socks are more difficult and painful.
“The pandemic changed everything,” Nikki said. “I was out of routine, the gyms were closed, I was sitting more for work. I was in more and more pain. Then the pain crept into my back and my neck and I started to think properly about my future.”
Nikki has been going through a whirlpool of emotions since 26th August, when she decided that she had fitness and youth on her side to get the best possible outcome from surgery.
“I told myself I need to be brave and do something now that’s scary but will benefit me down the line,” she said.
On the other hand, Nikki was excited about her decision. “Once I got past the fear and panic of what I’m going to look like, I started to think about the possibilities, like what if a prosthetic limb comes out that will work better for me, or what if an opportunity comes up in terms of adventuring,” she said.
Nikki will have a long road to recovery ahead of her after surgery. But after that, she is already planning to find new ways to enjoy fitness.
“I start getting excited about the different prospects ahead of me. Like I’ve always wanted to get into winter sports that I wasn’t able to do before. That’s what I think about now when I start getting scared. There is a lot of fear and panic but it does pass,” she said.
Nikki, who has a large following on social media, told her community about her decision on Sunday. She will be sharing her story in full on a podcast with RTE presenter Kathryn Thomas next week.
Nikki plans to give an honest account of the highs and lows of her journey, and she has received huge support already.
She said: “As much as my goal is to help others, in the past 24 hours, the amount of people sending me messages, sharing links and offering to have a chat has been amazing. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone.
“When I come out the other side, I want my content to be helpful to others. I’m not going to be putting on a front, I’ve always been open about my bad days and I’ll continue to do that. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but the unfollow button is there for anyone who wants to use it.”
Nikki says she has already felt great relief by telling everyone about her plans. She will have her first meeting with her consultant at the end of the month.
“It’s a world of the unknown, but it doesn’t have to be a scary unknown,” she said.
“If people are interested, they can follow my Instagram page @nikki_bradley_speaks, where I’m hoping to make it a positive place.”