Natasha Brown has been through so much in her twenty-eight years of life and yet she remains positive and determined… while inspiring those around her! This is her story.
South Africa (12 October 2020) – Natasha Brown was diagnosed with Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) at just 22 years old. This type of tumour is considered the most aggressive form of cancer that begins within the brain. It grows and spreads rapidly often creating pressure within the brain. The average survival time of a person with GBM Stage 4 is twelve to eighteen months with only 5% of patients surviving longer than 5 years – Natasha is part of this 5% and she is determined to beat this!
In 2013 Natasha started having seizures which doctors put down to stress. In January 2014 she had a seizure at home and was taken to the nearest emergency room. The doctor that assessed her recommended a CT scan as he saw something wrong in her left eye. Within a week of having this seizure, Natasha saw a neurosurgeon and had an MRI. The findings were not what we were expecting – she had a 6cm mass on the left frontal lobe of her brain. Natasha was put on high doses of cortisone in hopes to reduce the swelling in time for surgery and went in for surgery on 05 February 2014, after a long 5 hour wait her family was informed that it is in fact a malignant tumour but the surgeon was able to remove over 90% of it.
Natasha remained strong as ever and took in all this information with admirable bravery. The only question she had was “Why me?”
Natasha recovered well from surgery, she then saw an oncologist at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth where she received the maximum radiation one could have in their lifetime, and this was to destroy any remaining tumour cells. Radiation came with its own set of side effects but again Natasha took it in stride. We were confident that she was on the road to recovering once all the radiation sessions were over; she had regular checkups, first every three months, then every six months and finally once a year for an MRI to monitor her condition. In 2019 Natasha was considered to be in “remission” (No tumour growth or symptoms). In these five years she went on as normal, she surprised everyone that she was still working full time; she had a few mild seizures and was told this would happen as she is being treated for epilepsy since her diagnosis in 2014. She refused to let her condition get her down – until 2020.
Natasha started to develop a slight speech impediment where she slurred her speech and little confidence when communicating, she also began to lose feeling in her right leg and her right hand which caused a struggle when performing daily tasks such as writing, singing and eating. She also had more frequent seizures; although they were mild they were a concern considering the other symptoms.
On the 25th of August 2020 Natasha had an MRI, the report from the doctors noted an increase in tumour size and an increase in pressure and swelling on the brain as well as a brain herniation with a cerebral midline shift; they recommended an urgent neurosurgical consult. By the 27th of August Natasha had seen a neurosurgeon and was booked for surgery on the 1st of September, a similar surgery to that in 2014 – a left frontal lobe craniotomy with the aim of total tumour resection. She was again put on high doses of cortisone in hopes of reducing some swelling in time for surgery. The surgery was successful, the surgeon removed a cyst off of her brain and as much tumour as possible without causing any permanent complications. There is still tumour remaining and she will see an oncologist for the way forward. Considering Natasha has had the maximum amount of radiation one can have, it is possible that the way forward is to continue life as normal and if she becomes symptomatic again then there will possibly be another surgery to relieve any pressure and remove what is possible in order to buy her time with the best possible quality of life.
Natasha has been through so much in her twenty-eight years of life and yet she remains positive and determined as always, even though this year has been one of the worst for her – she was retrenched earlier in the year due to being a high risk for COVID-19, which leaves her with no income, she had a recurrence of her tumour, another brain surgery and another person very close to her has also been diagnosed with high stage cancer.
Those that know Natasha admire her strength and bravery and stand in awe of the person she is despite the odds set against her, she is a survivor and has overcome more than most in their lifetime; and despite all her hardships she is there to help anyone she can, perhaps we can return the favour, she still has a long road to recovery but is determined to beat all odds of this disease… if anyone can it’s her!
If you would like to follow Natasha’s story and regular updates please take a moment to read the fundraiser set up for her with BackaBuddy. Any contributions towards making her life a little easier is truly appreciated – she deserves the very best.