CBBC’s My Life: I Will Survive was filmed over the summer of 2018 and follows the life of UK Cypriot vlogger Nikki Lilly (119k followers Instagram 532,009 YouTube subscribers). Combining observational footage, video diaries and her own vlogs – this film is an intimate and very personal insight into the resilience, enduring bravery and wonderfulness of an amazing 14-year-old young woman as she battles with a life-threatening condition. This film is a follow up to My Life: Born to Vlog (Bafta and Emmy nominated and winner of the Japan Prize, RTS and Prix Jeunesse) made by Blakeway North. Two years ago, Nikki Lilly won Junior Bake Off, but many things have happened since. Nikki has become a teenager and her followers on YouTube have risen to over 532,000. Nikki also has her own CBBC series Nikki Lilly Meets in which she chats to some of the country’s top celebs. But it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. The medical condition she has been aware of since she was 6.
The increase in blood pressure in her body has made her nosebleeds and headaches a lot worse. In June 2018, after a bleed that wouldn’t stop, Nikki was rushed into hospital and put into a sleep induced coma. After 8 days they finally managed to stabilise the situation, and this is where the film begins.
As Nikki’s AVM is considered life threatening, it is crucial that her doctors at Great Ormond Street come up with a plan as soon as possible. It is decided that she will need three major operations over the next six months to remove as much of the AVM as possible; it’s very tricky and dangerous because her AVM is behind her eye and deep in her scull near her brain.
In the meantime, Nikki is celebrating her 14th Birthday and allowed to colour her hair, which she films for her YouTube channel. It’s a very welcome distraction for her and being able to go for dinner and enjoy hanging out with her family is something she wasn’t sure her medical condition would allow this year. As ever, Nikki is keen to embrace the positives in her life and is really grateful for all the support she has received from her online followers. Before the surgeons at Great Ormond Street can start removing the AVM, they need to block off some of the arteries that carry blood into her face, this is so that during surgery there will be a lot less chance of blood loss, it should be straightforward but after the procedure Nikki is left in a lot of pain.
It’s the summer and all her friends are on holiday, Nikki is feeling isolated and very lonely. In a very brave, candid and moving video diary, she opens up about how tough it is being her. Nikki is very honest about not wanting pity and people to feel sorry for her but feels it’s really important to let people understand her life better. Nikki is also upset because she has been invited to YouTube’s Summer in the City and she doesn’t know if she will be well enough to attend. In true Nikki style, she pulls it out of the bag and two days later, with her pain under control, she is at Summer in the City.
Nikki is blown away by all the love and support of her followers and explains how important it is for her, as someone with a visual difference to put herself out there and get her message of positivity onto a global platform. Despite social media sometimes getting a bad reputation, for Nikki it has been an incredibly positive experience, sharing her story through her vlogs allowed her to engage with the world when her medical condition has stopped her.
The next day Nikki is heading back into GOSH for her first surgery. With her Mum and Dad by her side, the “Three Musketeer’s” face Nikki’s most scary surgery yet. The 8-hour operation goes well but the healing takes a long time. Finally, after missing months of school, Nikki is heading back to year 10. Nikki is very nervous, but her friends are there for her and the film ends with another video diary, where Nikki talks through her positive day and the bigger picture, the need to embrace life, be the best version of yourself and appreciate every day.
The way in which Nikki lives her life has universal messages of hope and optimism. Recent research has shown that only 1 in 3 kids would be friends with someone with a visual difference, people like Nikki. But if kids see visual difference form a young age, especially before the age of 7, this can change. It is so important that Nikki is out there doing her thing, sharing her story.
In a social media world where definitions of what normal, perfect and beauty are, it is crucial to keep challenging what is considered normal and embrace every sort of difference. Nikki does with effortless charm, humour and to quote Nicole Scherzinger “bad assness!” I Will Survive will be aired on CBBC at 5pm on Monday 11th February. She is also scheduled to appear on Good Morning Britain with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on the same day, talking about her struggles and her passion for life.