Nothing Can Make This Stand Up Comedian Sit Down – Not Even Cancer


LBBC would like to welcome our newest blogger Nikki Black. Nikki was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer 5 months ago at the age of 23. 

Five months ago I was sitting on the examination table in the office of my primary physician, waiting as she printed out the order for the next day’s ultrasound. “You don’t seem very concerned about this,” she said. I smiled and shook my head, comfortable under the veil of invulnerability that comes with youth. “That’s good,” she added, “I’m not too concerned either.”

I left her office reassured that the lump I had found while showering was most likely nothing, that the ultrasound would confirm this, that student loans would remain my biggest concern for the foreseeable future. I was 23-years-old; I had no family history. There was, at that moment, no cause for concern.

Unfortunately, the next day brought ultrasounds which were “suspicious”, which led to the mammograms, labeled “troubling”, and finally a biopsy, which became defining. A week after that doctor’s visit, I looked up at a bright June sky and tried to comprehend that my life would never be the same. I had breast cancer.

This story may sound like a dramatic telling of a statistical anomaly, but young women are facing this reality every day. The feeling of your future being ripped out from in front of you, cast into a void where your dreams and current perception of self must be constantly restructured could be the basis of any quarter-life crisis, but there is a terror specific to the word “cancer” that settles deep into your stomach and clings there with a particularly icy grip. With no family history, who was I to look to for guidance? With the limited experience of my age group, how could I expect my friends to understand? To help me cope?

Like all journeys, mine began with a small step- a step into the kitchen to prepare my drug of choice, jasmine green tea. I called family and friends, collapsed into my brother’s arms for a good cry, and then, like any good millennial, commenced The Googling. The Googling, however, seemed to further isolate and scare me. It felt like everywhere I clicked I found somebody telling me to make sure not to let my man see me drain the tubes after surgery, because he’d find that disgusting. I read story after story of negative body image, of self doubt and loathing as side effects of cancer, and it terrified me.

As a stand up comedian, I decided to start working through my issues on stage and found that when I was able to laugh about my fears, I started to gain more courage. I am here to tell young women there is more than one way to go through this experience, and it does not have to be filled with negativity. I’m not done my journey myself and I’m making it a point to learn as much as I can as I go along, but I want to let you know that I plan on blogging for Living Beyond Breast Cancer for a while and I hope to provide a place of positivity for young women, as well as a sounding board for our issues, which are so often different from those of an older woman with the same diagnosis.

The end of a post seems like an awkward place for introductions, but as I said, we’re just getting started. So: Hi! I’m Nikki, a 23-year-old stand up comedian currently undergoing chemotherapy for Stage 1 breast cancer. I can’t wait to speak with you again soon.

Nikki Black is a stand up comedian living and writing in Philadelphia. She enjoys tea, anime and anything by Neil Gaiman. To learn more about Nikki or to watch her stand up videos visit her blog.  

For more information about young women and breast cancer please visit LBBC’s Young Women’s Initiative page

9 thoughts on “Nothing Can Make This Stand Up Comedian Sit Down – Not Even Cancer

  1. Nikki, as someone who has been dealing with breast cancer and it’s aftermath since you were 5, it pisses me off that women as young as you, and even younger have to go through it. You couldn’t have found a better organization to connect with than LBBC (and their colleagues at Young Survivors Coalition) Keep on sharing and loving yourself through the process.

  2. I’ve always admired your courage and humor, even before your diagnosis! You’re a real go getter fantastic lady, you are going to get through this and grow from the experience, you will be a vessel from which others will learn from and gain their own courage.

  3. Thank you for sharing yourself here. I wish you much love and light in going through your journey. I absolutely love your positive outlook and it makes all the difference in battling adversity. Keep laughing, crying, healing and smiling.

  4. While reading your story you are right you just got to keep laughing and not really think about the bad stuff. I’m 25 I was told I had breast cancer back in July. I’m done with my chemo and decided to have a double mass. I will have my surgery after thanksgiving. Keep you head held high and don’t let it take over you life.

  5. Nikki, I am a nine year breast cancer survivor. I can tell you now that I applaud you for your courage and determination to not let cancer control your life. Continue to be the courageous woman you are right now and know that being positive is the best medicine of all. My thoughts and prayers are with you and I know you will truly come through this with flying colors. 🙂

  6. Hey there Nikki :). My name is Stacy. I just turned 33, was diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer at 32 about 6 weeks after having my first (and only) child. I found the lump at 7mo pregnant but my OB decided to dismiss me as I also have no family history and in her words was ‘too young’. Long story short I fought for myself and when I finally got a Dr to listen it was the size of an orange and in lymph nodes. Fun stuff….I made it through some seriously terrifying crap. In fact, I still find myself today wondering if all of it really happened. Five months of chemo, 7 weeks of radiation and the removal of my left boob (my right is soon to go in Jan (my decision)).
    Anyway, I hate to meet you this way but am relieved to find another youngin’ in this ‘normally’ older women’s club. So I will sit at the kiddie table with you and would like to tell you that as nightmarish as it all seems now and that feeling that you’re probably fighting of your heat wanting to plummet out of your butt will get easier. You will realize that you will be a different person (you probably already have), but I promise you’ll make it through treatment and you’ll look back in a few months and it will all seem so surreal.
    As for after treatment, well this is why I’m glad I met you. I see a shrink and have since Jan, he helps but no one ‘really’ gets it except those of us young women that are having to deal with this. So I’m here and I’m glad you are too. Would’ve rather met you over a drink but this will have to suffice. Please shoot me an email if you’re feeling it, as I learned a lot the hard way through my treatment, so if I can help I’d love to.
    Much love, many blessings and lots of laughs to you my friend,

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