28th March 2017

Nikki Tissen

View all Supporter Stories

Since her mum and best friend, Nikki, passed away from lung cancer aged just 49, daughter Tori has gone to extreme heights so that others don’t have to go through the trauma she has. Tori shared her story to encourage more people to open up about their experiences and break down the stigma that is so often associated with lung cancer.

“My mum, Nikki, was the most beautiful and inspiring woman I have ever had the honour of knowing. The fact that I got to call her ‘Mum’ is even more of a privilege. She had the kindest nature, the biggest heart and a smile that lit up every room. She had these bright blue eyes; everyone always remembered her eyes. She wasn’t just my mum; she was my best friend.

My mum never really had any noticeable symptoms. She used to cough now and again but no one really thought much of it. Then she developed a pain in her side. The pain persisted and she was admitted to hospital. Little did we know that just nine days later she would be dead.

The pain actually had nothing to do with lung cancer. She had secondary cancer in her liver. That’s what was causing the pain. She was only officially diagnosed with lung cancer just six days before she died.

It was a huge shock for all of us. I’d geared myself up to hear it was liver cancer. I never even thought it would have started in her lungs based on her symptoms.

We were then told it was stage 4 lung cancer. She was terminal and had just days to live. It was heart breaking; I didn’t have years, months, even weeks left with my mum. We only had a matter of days. Two days in fact. She passed away two days later, aged 49.”

It is nearly seven years now since Nikki passed away and sadly there are still seeing so many stories like hers. In fact, it is getting worse.

According to a recent study, more young women will die of lung cancer this year than young men. Experts said that 1.4 women per 100,000 aged 25 to 44 in the European Union will die from lung cancer, compared with 1.2 per 100,000 men^.

And yet still no one is talking about it. It’s something that Tori is particularly passionate about:

“Lung cancer is a taboo subject. That’s why I’m sharing my mum’s story. Every story shared helps break down the stereotype associated with lung cancer. I want people to understand that lung cancer isn’t just caused by smoking. There are many people that suffer from this disease and have never smoked in their life.

I want people to be more about aware about lung cancer, its symptoms and the statistics. I think many people would be shocked to discover how devastating these are.”

As part of our 2017 Lung Cancer Awareness Month campaign, HeadHigh, Tori wrote a poem in memory of her mum.

The 22nd of August 2012 was the day that your heart slowed its pace
I promise that in my heart you have forever secured the most special, treasured place.

The words I never thought I would hear were spoken out loud
“It’s Stage 4 Lung Cancer”, and I knew that there was no turning back now.

One day you had this contagious smile, and you were crying in pain the next
It was such a shock to watch such a horrible disease take only the very best.

I’m so proud in that 6 day duration you put up such a fight,
I know that you’re the brightest star in the sky when day turns to night.

From getting married and having kids,
Small daily achievements and big milestones that you will now miss.

There’s so many things I wish you could be here to see,
Every day that passes I long to have you here with me.

I hope you’d be proud to see all the awareness that is being raised,
All the donations big and small that people have kindly made.

Thank you for blessing me with such determination to help people in the same position as yourself and me,
You are my motivation and I hope that I can make a difference to others and their families.

Losing you was a pain I could never even begin to comprehend,
But I know that goodbyes are never forever, they’re only until we meet again.

Rest in my peace my best friend, my angel and my beautiful Mum,
Such a cruel disease that stole you from this world 49 years too young.

Taking to the skies

As well as sharing her story, Tori has also been fundraising for our charity by doing a skydive in memory of her mum:

“It was 15,000ft; 60 seconds of freefall at 125mph. It was exhilarating for two reasons – one, I had just jumped out of plane but more importantly two, I was thinking what the money I had raised could help achieve.

“I think my mum would have called me crazy. She would have been worried because that’s what mums do. But, above all, I think she would have been proud that I’ve become so passionate about wanting to make a change because even the smallest change can make a huge difference.”