Mum of two Natalie had shown no previous symptoms before she had a seizure in bed. She was devastated to be told she had a grade three anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumour. But, 10 years on, she is celebrating beating the doctors’ prognoses and will be taking on an abseil challenge to raise funds for research into the disease. She is determined to live life to the full and has travelled to her dream destination and, along with husband Nat, even built her own home.
Here is Natalie’s story…
Being diagnosed with a brain tumour was the shock of my life. It came from nowhere, out of the blue, and announced itself by causing a seizure as I was in bed. I feel so awful that my children, who were then nine and six, had to see me being taking away by ambulance. I was told I could expect to live for three to five years but here I am ten years later. I hope my story will give hope to others.
“Going through the diagnosis, surgery and treatment has, without doubt, been the biggest challenge of my life. We have been through so much and I am grateful to be here and to be optimistic about the future.”
It was 2008 when my tumour was diagnosed. I underwent surgery and then full brain radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The tumour, which was the size of a peach stone, was identified as a grade three anaplastic astrocytoma which means it is cancerous and could come back. The tumour, which was in the top of my head, was 95 per cent removed by the surgery and two smaller ones at the base of my skull disappeared after treatment so I count myself very lucky.
Having been taken by ambulance to hospital, I soon found myself having a CT scan which discovered an abnormality. It was a very stressful and frightening time for us all. Going through the diagnosis, surgery and treatment has, without doubt, been the biggest challenge of my life. We have been through so much and I am grateful to be here and to be optimistic about the future.
“My consultant calls me her ‘superstar’ and has often said that she didn’t really expect me to still be here. I am telling my story so others in a similar situation can find hope.”
I still have to have scans every six months to see if there has been any recurrence of the tumour. My consultant calls me her “superstar” and has often said that she really didn’t expect me to still be here and I am telling my story so others in a similar situation can find hope.
Over the last ten years we have done our best to make the most of every day and to really live life to the full. Soon after my diagnosis we went on a family holiday to Bulgaria.
We have also had a wonderful holiday to Barbados, somewhere I always wanted to go, and even built our own home which is something which I had always dreamed of.
We were lucky enough to be able to buy some land in a beautiful area in Northumberland looking over woods and fields. Although there were lots of tears, anxiety and arguments along the way, we finally moved in two years ago. The house is built in a traditional style and we have been able to incorporate a beauty room for our daughter Grace, a studio for our son Matthew to enjoy his photography, and even have a cinema room on the top floor.
There have been very, very difficult times too of course. I really struggled with losing my hair. It was so distressing to find that, during treatment, it was falling out in clumps on the pillow or every time I brushed it, so Nat shaved it off for me. The radiotherapy means my hair will never grow back properly and I have two wigs, one short and the other long, but you can still see scars on my forehead.
At the time of my diagnosis I was working as a medical administrator in a hospital but my tumour left me with weakness on one-side and also problems with my memory so it would be impossible for me to return to that.
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