Mrs. Merrick Spotlight
October 24, 2022
Nikki Merrick had put off her routine mammogram for months. The Cupertino High School English teacher felt fine when she finally made it in to get scanned in the spring of 2016.
The mammogram result shocked the 46-year-old mother of two to her very core, plunging her into what literally became the fight for her life.
Merrick was diagnosed with breast cancer, which is mainly diagnosed in women after the age of 54. More specifically, she had lobular carcinoma, a type of invasive cancer “I was shocked,” said Merrick. “Breast cancer doesn’t run on either side of my family.”
After the initial diagnosis, Merrick informed her husband and best friend but delayed telling her daughters, who were then in 5th and 7th grade. “Trying to explain [the situation] […] without scaring them was really hard […] My girls were too young. I was too young.” However, once she explained what was going on, both she and her daughters were shown overwhelming support from fellow parents, her husband and even the community at Cupertino High. Said Merrick, “I think everybody felt like they needed to be strong for me. What was really amazing was the other families […] there were dancers, dance studio moms, soccer moms, all these different groups of people who swarmed in to help support my daughters […] We were all afraid because it was unfamiliar, and we didn’t know what was going to happen.” But with this support, she successfully fought her battle against breast cancer.
However, Merrick felt that the community around her and the various stigmas surrounding her cancer gave her a much more preferable experience with her type of cancer. Said Merrick, “There’s pink ribbons and bows, and there are walks [with cute catchphrases]. I think I would have felt very different if I had colon or rectal cancer. […] [Breast cancer] has been very easy to talk about.” She also believes more breast cancer awareness should be brought to younger women, as her contraction came at a comparably young age.
Merrick combated her breast cancer throughout the year of 2016, from late February to fall. She had both breasts removed, undergoing multiple surgeries for both initial removals and reconstruction. Her last surgery was in September of 2016, but she is currently still on a 10-year medication for estrogen suppression due to the harm it poses towards the reignition of her breast cancer.
Though this experience was challenging, it humbled her and made her much more appreciative of her health and access to good healthcare. She especially finds strength in participating in marches with her family and hearing the stories of others. When recounting one of her more memorable walks, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk, Merrick said, “It’s pretty empowering to feel like a survivor, and it also is incredibly humbling [to hear] everyone’s story.” She often talks about her own stories with her students, hoping that being forthcoming about her experience will create a safe space for her students to open up. She puts up positive posters in her room, among them ones that read “Treat People With Kindness” and “Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about.” She often reminds herself that her attitude toward life is what matters. Said Merrick, “Attitude is everything. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you choose to do with that.”