Natasha Paul

First post: Apr 24, 2017 Latest post: Jan 30, 2019
Welcome to my CaringBridge website. I'm using it to keep family and friends updated in one place.  Thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts and reflections as I share mine along this journey. 

On Thursday 13th April 2017, just a few months after my 40th birthday, I went to Whyalla for an MRI brain scan after having trouble making sense of setting a clock a few days earlier. That scan revealed three tumours on my brain, one large, walnut sized  and two smaller ones.  I headed back to Port Augusta to discuss the results with my doctor who revealed the tumours were secondary meaning they'd spread from somewhere else in my body. Immediate blood tests and CT scans from neck to pelvis followed and a tumour of about 3.5cm was identified on my lung.  A neurosurgeon was booked and an appointment to have a craniotomy to remove the largest tumour arranged for the following week. A PET scan later revealed there was also a tumour in a lymph node next to my trachea.

It was utterly terrifying for us all, but despite this news we managed to have a nice few days at home over Easter in a little bubble with the kids, coming to terms with what this might mean, sharing the news with family and friends.

On Friday 21st April, less than a week after being diagnosed, I underwent brainsurgery and it was a great success. Step one in the battle was behind us already.

About a week later I  commenced a comprehensive and highly aggressive treatment plan which included 33 radiotherapy treatments to the two tumours in my lung  area, 4 highly concentrated stereotactic radiotherapy treatments to the two remaining brain tumours and the cavity of the one that has been removed and two 6 day cycles of  chemotherapy treatment to run at the same time. It was shaping up to be the seven hardest weeks of my life, facing all the unknowns of what the treatment would do to me, but my medical team  were confident that they’d wipe out the cancer and I would recover.

My offical diagnosis was stage IV lung cancer. During my treatment it was identified that I have a rare form of lung cancer, resulting from a genetic mutation, called EGFR lung cancer. As far as lung cancers go, this is the type to have given there are a range of treatment options using targeted drug therapy to control the growth and spread of the cancer. I’ve been on one of those drugs, Tarceva, now since about July 2017. It affects my skin, hair and nails quite a bit but mostly the effects are tolerable. To this day we don’t know if my initial treatment was what has kept me cancer free or if it is the drug that is currently keeping me disease free. New drugs are coming to the market and immunotherapy is also presenting some good results for lung cancer too. I have had consistently good scans with my latest PET scan showing no evidence of disease in January 2019, 19 months since my treatment completed. I am currently feeling well and mostly pretty normal although I do suffer a little from long term side effects from the chemotherapy, but these are not debilitating in any way. I now have a partially collapsed lung from the radiation damage but I tested it out during the Three Capes Walk in Tasmania in September 2018 and managed just fine, despite limited training.

At the time I started writing this blog, despite my life exploding in front of my eyes and being hurtled into the unknown, I felt  strong, confident and positive. I’m two years into this journey now and I have never wasted a minute asking why me?  I have accepted this and I have done everything in my power to live every minute with presence, focus on what is important and gratefulness for what I have. My children, husband, family and friends are my world and I try to embrace every second and hold fear and worry at arms length at all times. Occasionally they get the better of me, but not often.

I have been surrounded by and overwhelmed with love and support since this journey started and the messages of encouragement and support, special visits, laughs and chats I've had along the way have been awesome.  I feel the healing power of every prayer, beam of light and love and positive energy and act of kindness that has been directed my way. Thank you. 

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