A WELL-KNOWN former Heyfield resident has died aged 30 after a battle with testicular cancer, leaving behind his wife and two young children.
Brendan Nikolajew’s wife Leah said the former Royal Australian Artillery gunner “passed away peacefully” on Monday.
“I held him close and lay next to him until his last breath,” Mrs Nikolajew said.
“I made sure he knew how loved he was by everyone who knew him.”
The father of two was diagnosed in after finding a lump on his left testicle and became a fierce advocate for men’s health, reminding blokes to get checked if they noticed anything abnormal.
“Knowing your ‘normal’ is a massive one,” Mr Nikolajew told 9News last year.
“Getting to a doctor is simple, it’s so easy to book a GP.
“It’s not being embarrassed about your body, about speaking out.”
After moving to Brisbane, the young father found treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and alternative therapies to be successful initially.
But the cancer returned twice, and spread to other parts of his body.
In January 2020, he was told he had a year to live.
Mr Nikolajew — who fought the Taliban in Afghanistan — admitted his prognosis was “daunting” but pledged to fight for his family, including children Georgie and Roman.
Mrs Nikolajew told 9News about the legacy her husband left behind.
“I just want people to know what an incredible husband and father he was and that his strength and [positivity] has inspired so many people,” she said.
She said he had struggled in his final few days.
“The last few days of his life were extremely hard for him as he struggled to breathe and was quite confused; he fought right to the end and did not want to leave, but eventually made the decision to finally be at peace and watch us from the stars,” she wrote on Facebook.
“My little family and I are absolutely broken and still can’t imagine how we are going to continue on in this life without our sun and moon and our rock.
“He lived life to the fullest and loved the people around so bloody hard and I am proud to be his wife. I hope we can all keep his memory alive by never giving up and living our life with Brendan’s ferocity and passion.”
Mr Nikolajew had shared his story with the media to raise awareness of testicular cancer among young men.
While he didn’t wait too long to see his GP after finding the lump, when he did go, he was immediately sent to a urologist.
After tests, the doctor broke the brutal news to him and his wife.
“He said: ‘Do you see this? It’s cancer.’ He just blurted it out,” Mr Nikolajew told 9News.
Mr Nikolajew was also involved with the Movember campaign.
A few weeks ago he had a visit from the blue Wiggle and fellow veteran, Anthony Field.
The performer replaced his name with Brendan’s on a new Wiggles album — meaning his family would get the royalties.
Symptoms of testicular cancer include a lump, ache, feeling of heaviness in the testicles, or back ache.
Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in young men, however, if caught early, almost all men survive.
— Sarah Swain. Article first appeared on 9News.
A Go Fund Me page has been established to help the Nikolajews cope with some of the enormous medical costs they have been saddled with.