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May 15, 2022
Hello! My name is Natalie, I was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable cancer in my bowel when I was 36. It had spread beyond the bowel; two huge tumours were growing into most of the organs in my pelvis and one of the tumours was growing into my spine, making my cancer not viable for surgery.
Prior to my diagnosis I was very fit, looked after myself, ate well. I trained as a dancer, worked as a dancer and was then a teacher. I just did not expect to hear the words “you have cancer”.
I was really poorly by the time I was diagnosed and was being admitted to hospital a lot due to the pain of where the tumour was growing into my spine. It got to a point where my bowel had stopped working and I couldn’t go to the toilet or eat and so I was booked in for urgent stoma surgery which is where they basically ‘defunction’ your bottom and bring part of your intestine outside of your body and attach it to the skin on the outside of your abdomen. You then have to stick a bag to your tummy to collect your bodily waste. I was so devastated about this but I was also so poorly I just wanted to try to get better.
Following the stoma surgery I then went through an aggressive course of chemo and radiation and then more chemo to try get these massive tumours to a point they were operable. The tumours responded really well but sadly my cancer started growing back not long after the first lot of treatment finished and so I was then referred to the complex cancer team at St Marks, a specialist bowel hospital. By this time we were about to head into a global pandemic.
What followed I didn’t even know was possible and couldn’t ever have imagined or predicted.
I was told I had to have surgery to remove everything that the tumours were growing into plus a bit more to get ‘clear margins’ to try to decrease my chances of it growing back yet again. They needed to take out basically everything in my pelvis apart from my bladder. I also had to start a second line of chemo because all major cancer surgery had been stopped due to covid. In fact I had to wait 6 months for my surgery. If I hadn’t had chemo I honestly think the cancer would have grown too much and I would have been too far gone for the surgery.
On 10th August 2020 I headed to hospital alone for a 12 hour Pelvic Exenteration surgery that would change my life forever but would also save my life. Without it I think my prognosis was around 9-12 months.
They cut me from belly button to pubic bone, then underneath from vagina through the perineum to the anus. They removed my ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb, cervix, vagina, rectum, anus, part of my spine, my left piriformis muscle, they scraped out the bone of my left pelvic sidewall and also had to remove cancer that had spread to my left ureter (the tube that connects the left kidney to the bladder) and then reimplant the remaining ureter into the bladder. I spent the next month in hospital with none of my loved ones allowed to visit, followed by 6 months in and out of hospital with complications.
The aftermath of all of this is that I had to learn to walk again, I can’t have my own child, I can’t sit for long, I can’t do some of the things I used to (though I’m doing more than expected!! I will not give in!) I live with chronic pain, I had to learn to self catheterise to release my urine as my bladder was a bit damaged from where they had to cut it, I also have a stoma for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
But I am alive.
20 months on from surgery and I am alive and I’m currently having scans that show No Evidence of Disease (which is pretty good for a stage 4 patient!) and I am learning to love myself and my life in this new form. It’s not always easy, but it is life and it is still beautiful.
From the very first lot of chemo back in 2019 a cancer friend introduced me to Kate McIver Skincare because chemo really messed with my skin and literally EVERYTHING I used on it made it more sore and inflamed. The serum and cleanser helped soothe, calm and moisture my skin so much and I have used it ever since.
People might think after hearing about my surgery that my skin must the least of my worries but, I read that Kate herself said something like, why shouldn’t we look after ourselves and want to feel as good as possible whilst we go through all this treatment that is so hard on our bodies?! And I couldn’t agree more! I love to look after myself after everything my body has been through, I feel like my body deserves it! I am now heading towards the age of 40 (an age I never thought I’d reach!) and honestly, my skin hasn’t been this good for years. I will be forever grateful I found Kate McIver skincare.
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