1st November 2023

Natasha’s lung cancer story

View all Awareness

Since her lung cancer diagnosis, Natasha has done everything she can to support our charity and raise awareness of a disease she never considered would affect her.

She’s helped out with bucket collections. She’s done loads of interviews. She’s even climbed Scafell Pike, and now she’s joined our Be Unforgettable campaign to help dispel the misconceptions around lung cancer, especially the so-called profile of a lung cancer patient.

“Lung cancer has already affected our family; my father-in-law died of lung cancer nearly 11 years ago. Despite this, it wasn’t something I thought could possibly happen to me directly – even when I started experiencing symptoms. My breathing started going a bit squeaky and I developed quite a husky voice.

“I put it down to stress and the symptoms did seem to go away for a bit. However, they did return and were this time accompanied by quite a dry cough.

“I went to my GP, who was amazing. She gave me a chest exam and, even though she couldn’t hear anything of concern, referred me for an x-ray. That’s when the ball started rolling.

The profile

“Over the coming weeks, it was clear there was something going on, but lung cancer never seemed high on the list of possibilities. The doctors thought it was maybe infection, even TB but kept reassuring me that it was highly unlikely that it would be lung cancer.

We all kept coming back to the fact that I didn’t fit ‘the profile’. I am not who you expect to be a lung cancer patient. I was mountain biking and doing a lot of hiking. I rocked climbed and did yoga. I ate a predominately plant-based diet and was a non-smoker.

“Yet despite the fact I was low risk for all cancers – especially lung cancer – this did not stop me from eventually receiving that earth shattering diagnosis.

Rebuilding my life

“When I was told it was stage 4 lung cancer, my world collapsed. My mind instantly went to those dark places – how long have I got? Who’s going to look after my children? Fortunately, there was a silver lining… the results of my biopsy confirmed I was EGFR+ and I could start on a targeted therapy called Osimertinib.

Natasha's treatment allows her to live well with lung cancer

“I’ve been living with lung cancer for over nine months now. My primary tumour has reduced by 50% and the doctors can’t see any activity in my lymph nodes. But the thing that has surprised me the most is my quality of life.

“When you receive a stage four diagnosis, you expect your life to stop. You expect to be incredibly poorly. You expect to have sickness from chemotherapy. You expect to be in an awful lot of pain. I thought it would really curtail your ability to be able to do things.

“That is not my experience. I’m still taking the dogs out for walks every single day. We’ve got a big hill near us that we walk up every single day. I’m going on holiday. I’m still doing all the things you do as a mum and a wife.

Challenging misconceptions

This is why I wanted to be part of the Be Unforgettable campaign. First of all, I wanted to show everyone that you do not have to be a certain type of person to have lung cancer. I feel this is the biggest misconception surrounding lung cancer and it is a very dangerous and outdated belief which, in my mind, is part of the reason why younger people are often diagnosed later.

The other reason I wanted to share my experience is to offer some hope to people who have just been diagnosed, or who are experiencing symptoms and maybe too frightened to go to their doctor. Yes, it is so frightening, and you will feel like your life is over, but I am proof that you can live well with even late stage lung cancer.

“Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation helped me see that and guided me through those initial dark days when I received my diagnosis. Being part of this campaign allows me to offer some light to someone else.”