The diagnosis followed a story Nickles reported in October, in which she had a mammogram to show viewers how easy the procedure is.
"We shot the whole story and they took a second look at one little area," Nickles reported. "I've had dense tissue looked at a second time before and I thought, 'OK, no big deal.' "
A biopsy found malignant cancer cells that wouldn't have shown up on a mammogram just a year before, Nickles said.
After the lumpectomy, doctors also checked her lymph nodes, in case the cancer had spread. Those results were negative.
All the same, Nickles told viewers she will undergo radiation and chemotherapy for the next few months to ensure the cancer doesn't return. She plans to schedule her medical treatments so they won't interfere with her TV schedule, but that will depend on how well her body handles radiation and chemo.
KUTV news director Jennifer Dahl said the anchor wrestled with the decision of whether to announce her diagnosis publicly. One factor was that viewers might notice the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. "We don't know if she will lose her hair," Dahl said. "Mary is a bit of a public figure. [She's] on TV every day and in everybody's living room."
"I don't like being the story," Nickles told The Tribune Thursday afternoon. "The hardest part for me is not to be emotional on the air. I'm a really ugly crier."
For Nickles, going public is the right thing to do journalistically: "This started as a story, and now it's a more powerful story. This is why you want people to get mammograms."
She said she is confident she will overcome cancer. "It doesn't scare me so much, because I've met so many people who have done so well," she said. "I really do feel like I am going to kick its butt."
A cancer story
KUTV anchor Mary Nickles has started a blog, maryscancerstory.blogspot.com, to keep viewers informed of her progress through breast cancer treatments.