13 December 2022
In May 2022, Nikiya Love was told the news that 53 Australians hear every day – that she had blood cancer.
At the time, she was 17 weeks pregnant. A week later, her daughter Lexi passed away at 18 weeks gestation.
“Lexi is my guardian angel. Her short time on earth was more purposeful than some have in an entire lifetime,” says Nikiya.
And for Nikiya, the stage of gestation doesn’t matter. Ultimately, she lost her baby.
“There is no ‘at least’. There is no ‘at least you lost the baby before 12 weeks’. If there’s a viable heartbeat, or you think that you’re having a baby and that’s what you’ve been longing for, it doesn’t matter what gestation you are in that pregnancy. It’s really hard.”
“When I was diagnosed, I was told it was treatable and curable with a bone marrow transplant,” said the 31-year-old.
Nikiya needed to begin treatment immediately as the search for a bone marrow donor began. Despite her life being turned upside down, she wasn’t alone.
“The support I have received from family and friends, new and old, near and far, has been paramount in my positive outlook on this diagnosis and time of larger-than-life grief.”
“The words ‘you are so inspirational’ get used often, which I am incredibly humbled by. Yet, truth be told, it is because of the support I have received that makes this challenge achievable.”
“It is what makes getting out of bed every day possible. It’s what makes me strong enough to sit up in my hospital bed and smile each day. It’s what allows me to laugh.”
Nikiya and her husband Dave have been together for fifteen years, and tied the knot back in March 2016.
“His tenacity and resilience continue to amaze me with each year that passes.”
“Life certainly hasn’t played out the way we imagined it as teenagers, young and in love. But we’ve been fortunate to do it side by side, hand in hand and more in love than ever. I’m so grateful for our shared life and our created memories.”
Nikiya with her husband Dave in April 2022
“Dave would remind me daily that my ‘beauty’ didn’t come from my hair. He was right. Beauty is not physical. Beauty comes from within.”
As Nikiya began to lose her hair during treatment, she looked both internally and externally to find the strength to not just cope – but thrive.
“Losing my hair during my first round of chemo didn’t frighten me as I thought it would.”
“My bravery comes from deep within a love for myself, and a rebellion against our societal beauty standards.”
“I found inner courage and strength knowing that as my hair fell out, my treatment was working. It also allowed me to appreciate how powerful a smile truly is or how your eyes lead through to the soul.”
“I looked at articles of strong, independent females who had shaved their heads for a film. I also read historical articles about the era of women’s rebellion and the mighty women who advocate for change in our societal beauty standards over the decades.”
“I would look in the mirror every morning, strong and proud and look into my eyes and say, ‘good morning, beautiful’. My eyes haven’t changed and never will. My smile is the same and always will be.”
Nikiya cycling with her immunotherapy pack in November 2022
After completing another round of chemotherapy, Nikiya will soon undergo a bone marrow transplant thanks to an anonymous German donor who saved her life – and she’s on a mission to have a beer with him at Oktoberfest.
Unfortunately, Nikiya’s sister was not a match, and there was no match on the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, so Nikiya’s medical team had to look abroad.
They found an 100% match from Germany, who donated his bone marrow on 9 November 2022 before it was frozen and flown to Australia.
“All I know about him is that he’s in his late 20s to early 30s, and he’s a 100% match. He willingly agreed to be a stem cell bone marrow donor to me.”
“My treatment isn’t over. I have a huge mountain to climb. However, this milestone is one I want to remember for the rest of my life.”
“One day when I meet my incredible match, we’ll share beers together at Oktoberfest. In fact, he’ll have a free plane ticket to Australia and a spare room to crash whenever he wants.”
“He’ll be more than an unidentified ‘German man in his late 20s to 30s’. He will be the man who will give me a second chance on life. He’ll be part of me. We’ll share the same DNA and I’ll have his blood type. Yet, the most incredible part is that he is gifting me life and a chance for a cure.”
Nikiya is a strong advocate for donating blood and encourages others to join the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry if they are eligible.
“I’m calling out to anybody between the ages of 18 to 35 to get down to an Australian Red Cross Lifeblood site and scan the QR code to join the registry and become a bone marrow donor.”
“It’s such a simple thing to do and you can literally save a life.”
“We need more donors. Have the conversation. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family members. If there’s one thing that I would love, it would be to know that people are out there talking about stem and blood cell donations and going out to join the registry.”
Nikiya’s husband Dave donating blood to the Australian Red Cross
“This is really important, and I feel strongly about it. I want to do everything I can in my power to raise awareness. There are not many people that know about it unless they’re in the industry or know of somebody going through blood cancer.”
“It’s a simple blood test and a simple form. And you might just be the person to get the phone call to save somebody’s life.”
As she continues to look towards the future with optimism, Nikiya will never forget her daughter Lexi who she credits for ‘saving her life’.
“I truly believe our daughter Lexi saved my life. Without her, I wouldn’t have known of my leukaemia diagnosis. When it was time to say goodbye to her, these truly incredible humans around me kept my life going.”
To further support the blood cancer professionals that gave her a new lease on life, Nikiya and her closest friends and family assembled team ‘Love Locks Down’ to brave the shave in March 2023.
Taking part in the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave is an unmistakable and unmissable way to show you’re part of a caring community committed to stopping blood cancer wrecking lives.
“My sister Natalee and husband are participating in World’s Greatest Shave in March 2023 in support of blood cancer research, and also of my evil plan to force my husband to bring back ‘the fro’ and shave it off for charity – one curly lock at a time. ”
Nikiya with her sister Natalee in November 2022
Nikiya’s ‘Love Squad’ have also made an incredible impact for the Australian Red Cross, attracting 81 donations since June this year – saving over 243 lives.
Nikiya’s cousin Melissa has also joined team ‘Love Locks Down’, as well as Oscar, a fellow blood cancer patient (and now friend) that Nikiya met during her journey. They will both be shaving their heads alongside their fellow team members next March.
You’re invited to join Nikiya and make it your mission to brave the shave next March to stand in solidarity with the 135,000 Australian families facing blood cancer.