Natalie Mathews was 43 years old with no noticeable lump and no family history of breast cancer when her GP sent her for a precautionary mammogram.
Before the mammogram, Natalie’s days were spent as a busy secondary school teacher, a wife and a mother of two young boys.
“I was called with the test results in the middle of a maths class. From the caller’s tone of voice, I knew right away that something was terribly wrong and my whole world shattered,” Natalie said.
“I was told I had grade 3 triple negative breast cancer. It’s not hormone driven, it’s this rogue breast cancer.”
The tumour was too big to remove, so Natalie underwent chemotherapy. Her oncologist told her there was only a 50/50 chance the triple negative cancer would respond to the anti-cancer drugs, as it is notoriously difficult to treat.
“I was on intense chemotherapy for four months, it was tough but we could see the tumour was shrinking so we stuck with that.”
While recovering, Natalie spent her days sleeping – a stark change from the busy, active woman she had been.
“Fear comes up when you feel ill. Fear comes up when you have an ache or pain. It can stop you from living, so you have to forget that and try to be positive and proactive.”
“Now my husband and I keep a big eye on research. We’re very passionate and interested in how medical research is moving towards better treatments and prevention and earlier diagnosis.”
Natalie recently visited the Perkins and met researchers including Dr Benjamin Garcia Bloj and Dr Anabel Sorolla, both of whom are making strides towards improved treatments for triple negative breast cancer.
I have joined support groups to give back to other women and I’ve signed myself and a big group of friends up for the Hawaiian Walk for Women’s Cancer.
“I went through this awful experience, but I’ll make sure it wasn’t for nothing. I’m devoted to doing everything I can to help others.”
Natalie tells her moving story in a video alongside Perkins Laboratory Head, Associate Professor Pilar Blancafort, whose team is focussed on finding better treatments for triple negative breast cancer.