15 December 2020

My Life Now - meet Abi

It’s been 17 years since the Trust first set sail – what are the young people who have been on trips up to now? Our 'My Life Now' series shows a positive future after cancer is a reality. As a specialist dietitian, Abi spends all day talking with people and working with healthcare professionals using conversational skills which she credits to Trust trips.

Name: Abi Nickless

Age: 27

Diagnosis/year: Ewing's sarcoma, 2006

When first sailed with the Trust: 2007

What you do now: Specialist dietitian

Explain what that means?

I am a qualified health professional who assesses, diagnoses and treats dietary and nutritional problems. I specialise in patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Often these patients have difficulty eating due to side effects, and it is my job to make sure they are receiving good nutrition to support them throughout their treatment.

Why did you do want to do this?

I have always been interested in healthcare; I always admired the staff who looked after me whilst I was on treatment. But when it came to choosing a degree, I struggled to decide what to study. I went to a few hospital and university open days, which inspired me to pursue a career in dietetics. Funnily enough, whilst I was on treatment, I actually took nutritional / build up drinks which I now prescribe to my patients! What goes around comes around!

What's the coolest thing you've done lately?

Ooh tough one! I just learnt how to snowboard - at the ripe old age of 26!

Why did you need the Trust's support in recovery?

I went through treatment in my early teens - very important years in making friends and building hobbies. I had some friends visit me at hospital, but not many. Many of my classmates were afraid or nervous to talk to the 'cancer kid'. Thankfully I was never bullied, but everyone seemed to be having fun with their friends, whilst I was stuck in hospital. I became quiet and reserved. I didn't have the confidence to go places by myself or make new friends. I almost didn't go on my first ever trip as I was so nervous! My parents took me to the ferry to the Isle of Wight and I never once looked back. I made friends on that first trip, who I am still in contact with today (can you believe - 13 years later)!

What part has the Trust played in you doing what you are now?

My job is to talk to people all day, every day about their nutritional issues and how to solve them. I also work closely with other professionals including doctors, surgeons, allied health professionals and nurses. If I hadn't built the people skills and conversational skills that I developed on the Trust trips - I wouldn't be doing the job I do today.

What's your top tip for a young person interested in working in your industry?

Be passionate! Dietetics is a very fulfilling and amazing career, but a little bit of passion will make you a very good dietitian. And do your research. Really learn what dietetics is about. Although it is a profession that deals with nutrition, mostly it is about communication with patients and working with them to achieve their goal.