Natalie Yeoman from Dunedin is a mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, writer and musician.
Natalie shares here her difficult story of missed signs and ‘failure to treat’ that eventually led to incurable breast cancer.
She also shares her positivity, her gratitude for your support, and some of her beautiful poetry.
“In spite of regular self-examination and mammograms, my breast cancer was not picked up until the beginning of 2015. I first noticed unusual signs in 2009, but following a mammogram at that time, I wasn’t recalled for further investigation. Another mammogram followed in 2012 and I again raised concerns, but I wasn’t recalled. That I wasn’t, resulted in my breast cancer developing to the point where it had become metastatic.
“I tried to keep calm, to be a kind and courteous person in spite of disappointment and anger. I tried to process the pain of feeling let down by the system. Errors meant I was now officially incurable.
“I have known that I am a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor (I prefer to say ‘thriver’ for as long as I can) for almost six years. It takes a while to let the knowledge sink into your everyday reality.
“As that was happening slowly for me, I was in touch increasingly with other women with breast cancer, through the Cancer Society, support groups, and various workshops. I began to make new friends.
“But sometimes it was difficult hearing others talk about what they had lost, even though they had been given reassuring news about the future. I couldn’t share in that same hope. I found many would express their constant worry and fear that ‘the cancer will come back again.’ Often, I just kept my mouth shut about my stage 4 diagnosis.
“When you are already at Stage 4 and have been told there is treatment, but no cure, it is hard to acknowledge that fear in others. You feel like saying: ‘What? You are so lucky!’ You don’t say that of course; in fact, you try not to even feel it.
“I also kept quiet about my status so I wouldn’t frighten others. I felt I was a personal reminder of something no one wanted.
“So it was a bright day when I finally discovered Sweet Louise! To have an organisation, a movement where EVERYONE is facing that same reality, is awesome.
“You would imagine it could be frightening and a bit gloomy, but actually, I find it a joyful experience.
“Our Sweet Louise get-togethers have introduced me to some lovely and fascinating people. We seem to quickly find things in common, even apart from our metastatic status. We all understand how encouraging it is to be able to say ‘I seem to be stable right now’. We have underlying awareness that doesn’t need to be spoken. We get it! It’s a nice place to be.
“I appreciate so much the regular communication from Lesley, our local Support Coordinator. Little touches of kindness, cards, warm words, and the provision of useful information.
“I appreciate the gorgeous generosity of Sweet Louise, their support and the vouchers – all gifted by people like you. It makes you feel special and valued and that helps you wear your status with dignity. It helps make the way easier.
“Online we have our community that gives the enlarged version of our little local-ness. It’s good to be part of a vibrant, living, breathing, talking community. Stories, small and big postings, photos, all reduce the sense of isolation that could otherwise threaten.
“Sweet Louise is highly-specialised and targeted to our needs. We’re so lucky. It feels like we’ve all been chosen and blessed! Thank you to all those who have made this possible.
“I have come through and learnt to have a grateful life, with purpose, hope, meaning and friendships.
“My music continues, along with walks, gym exercise, camping at the beach and the great outdoors.
“My faith, marriage, children and partners, 13 grandchildren, all sustain me.
“I am now able to say that though I cannot be cured, yet every day I feel healed."
We don’t have to walk far to find goodness. That’s my experience in this ‘maze’.
A Maze of Grace
Journey, my friend,
Through this dangerous place,
This wondrous space.
your ears, eyes,
Look for the detail.
Find the small print.
Read life’s lips
And sing her songs.
Take off your shoes
And in the soils
you will trace elements of good,
intimations of mercy
and a maze of grace.