Interview: Nikki Umbertti

by Alice Rawsthorn .

When you find out you’ve got cancer, you just think: "Get it out." You don’t really care about what you’re going to look like.

‘I was misdiagnosed. I was 27 and modelling, I’d found lumps in my breast, but because I was so young, they assumed it wasn’t cancer. They said my lumps were cystic lumps from caffeine. But my gynaecologist was convinced there was something wrong. So I went back to my doctor and was sent to see a radiologist who misdiagnosed me. I could feel more lumps, so I went to another radiologist. By the end, I had ten tumours. Luckily, they all stayed in my breast. Otherwise I’d be dead. I had to have a mastectomy. By then, I was 29.’

‘When you find out you’ve got cancer, you just think: "Get it out." You don’t really care about what you’re going to look like. All I cared about was whether I was going to die, and that the cancer wasn’t going to spread to my brain. I cared about that. That was my goal, to get myself through it.’
 
‘It’s important for people to see that life doesn’t end with something like this, that life goes on, that you’re no less of a woman than you were before it. Breast cancer is so common now, and breast reconstruction is so common. It’s not taboo like it was before. I have very supportive people around me – my family and friends – who’ve been incredibly positive about it. The only hurtful or embarrassing remarks have come from older people, who’ve said them out of ignorance, because they’re uncomfortable with what’s happened to me.’

‘I’m conscious of how incredibly lucky I’ve been to have got through this, without the tumours spreading, especially to my brain. That’s a big fear.’

Nikki Umbertti is now studying dance and acting, but still models occasionally. She has made a short feature film, which was screened at the Woodstock Film Festival.