A wife and mother of three boys, Natasha was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in June 2022. She had found what she thought was an ordinary ingrown hair – but when she hadn’t been able to make it budge after a couple of weeks, she went to see her GP.

‘She just sent me straight for a mammogram and ultrasound. And from there, everything happened very, very quickly,’ Natasha remembers.

‘Within the week, I was booked in for a lumpectomy and an axillary clearance. And at that time – when they did the biopsy – [the grade of my cancer] was extremely high.’

‘It was heartbreaking – especially telling my kids,’ she says. It was a very, very difficult thing and at that time, my two oldest boys were in the middle of exams. I was talking to Holly about how we would break it to them. Holly was also the one that referred me to the Magic Coat for my youngest son, which is a counselling and support group for younger kids who have been affected by cancer.’

Sadly, breast cancer has affected a number of Natasha’s friends, and she was encouraged to reach out to Breast Cancer Care WA (BCCWA) for support. She was connected with Holly (her counsellor) and Karen (her breast care nurse).

‘About four years ago, I lost three friends to breast cancer within a matter of months. They were all mums.  I’ve also got three other friends who are now in remission. One of them was the one who suggested that I get in touch with Breast Cancer Care WA, and later that week one of my oncology nurses also said the same,’ she says.

Cancer treatment is never an easy road, but Natasha and her family have endured more than most in the 12 months since her diagnosis. Her 17 sessions of chemotherapy caused a number of rare and severe side effects, and she ended in ICU following complications resulting from a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction.

‘I’ve got a lot of recovery to do at the moment,’ she explains. ‘I will be going in for another two or three operations to correct some of the things that didn’t quite go as planned during the operations.’

Natasha describes the experience of attending one of BCCWA’s art workshops during her treatment, after being housebound for her first few months of chemo.

‘It was the first time I was actually able to leave the house,’ she says. ‘At the beginning when we were introducing ourselves, I actually broke down – and I’m quite a stoic person. But I think it’s just being surrounded by other people that also understand some of the difficulties that you’re facing. That was very therapeutic. It was a huge milestone for me.’

For Natasha, BCCWA has been a source of support and empowerment throughout her treatment. ‘The first thing is that support, that you’ve got someone there to help accompany you through your journey,’ Natasha says.

‘I would speak to [Karen] before any of my medical appointments, and she would quite often give me questions to ask the specialist – whether it was the oncologist or the breast surgeon.’

‘She was also full bottle about the drugs that I was on, what to do with the side effects I was going through – just to have that information available to you helps you make decisions about what you should be doing. And also in terms of self-care as well; I wouldn’t have been able to keep as strong, given how sick I got during my treatment.’

‘I’ve been with [Holly] since the very beginning and I also joined the online young women’s support group that she was running on Zoom. She also runs a support group, so I’ve been able to go to one of those and just meet other women as well. Everybody’s journey is very different – but some of the fears and things that you encounter are very similar.’

Although the hardest part of Natasha’s treatment is behind her, she is still under the care of her oncologist and has been placed on hormone blockers.

‘My hair and nails have grown back, and I am slowly healing, but the hardest part is trying to get back to normal life because after going through the cancer journey, nothing is normal again.’

Having the support of Breast Cancer Care WA has allowed Natasha to resume life after experiencing cancer treatment.