Triple-negative breast cancer patient, Natalie Le Roux, tells us about the best present of all: meeting and marrying the love of her life, Hardy Le Roux.
Natalie Le Roux (35) lives with her husband, Hardy, and their three fur kids, Joey, Sammy and Ozzy, in Umgeni, KwaZulu-Natal.
Natalie, also known as Dr Vegan by her friends and colleagues as she has a PhD in Cultural and Media Studies and is a Vegan, met Hardy in January 2016. “Thanks to our mutual friend asking us to join him for drinks at the same pub, we really hit it off. The next weekend at a party my husband-to-be smoothly and cheekily asked me to check out his guitar collection, and we’ve been together ever since then.”
Hardy proposed to Natalie in Phuket, Thailand on 25 April 2018. Obviously, she said yes. The couple then thought it would make sense to go back to Indonesia to seal the deal. “I have never wanted a traditional wedding, and so, this no fuss and more exciting option of eloping to Bali was perfect for us. It was so much more romantic, adventurous and meaningful to us to marry in a destination considered to be one of the most spiritual places on earth.”
They set the date for 1 September 2019.
Death of loved ones leads to self breast-examination
Natalie was young, gym-fit, a Vegan, and lived a relatively healthy lifestyle (or so she thought), making her diagnosis a complete surprise.
“After attending my dear friend’s memorial on 9 February 2019, who died from metastatic ovarian cancer at 35, while simultaneously reliving painful memories of losing my amazing mother to metastatic breast cancer, in 2012, on the Sunday morning I decided to do a breast self-exam, in the shower, to put my conscience at ease. Just to check,” Natalie recalls.
“You can imagine my utter shock when I felt a large lump. I couldn’t believe it. To this day, I honestly feel that my mom and Claire were looking out for me that Sunday. If I didn’t think of my memories of them, I wouldn’t have checked my breasts. When I came out the shower, I asked Hardy to check. He told me to immediately book an appointment with my gynaecologist.”
Natalie was diagnosed with breast cancer on 26 March 2019. “My first biopsy diagnosis was incorrect, stating I had oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. My tumour grew rapidly, and my oncologist recognised this as abnormal. That’s when I, thankfully, received the second and correct diagnosis, which is Stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer.”
The initial treatment plan for Natalie was a double mastectomy, which took place on 30 April. After the correct diagnosis was made, she then had a chemotherapy port inserted on 21
May to start four sessions of Adriamycin, aka Red devil, every three weeks (30 May to 1 August).
Her phase two Taxol chemotherapy commenced on 12 September for 12 weekly sessions.
The thirty-five-year-old will start five weeks of daily radiation in January 2020. “Once it’s determined how my body heals from this, I will know if I can undergo breast reconstruction or not.”
Getting married halfway through treatment
Hardy and Natalie had booked their wedding and honeymoon in Bali before receiving her breast cancer diagnosis. The couple decided to go ahead with the plans, despite Natalie’s diagnosis.
The next step was to get the approval from her oncologist. “I remember him explaining very seriously to us that I will only be allowed to go to Bali for our wedding if my health isn’t compromised. He made it very clear that it may not happen. Though, being the positive and strong-willed person that I am, I told him that’s not a problem and that our wedding was happening!” Natalie explains.
“Our wedding did take place, and I thank my awesome oncologist for this. I followed his every instruction to ensure that I was well enough. Even wearing a face mask every day at work to avoid viral infections because my white blood cell count was low. Being Vegan, I ate even more healthily than before my diagnosis.”
“My oncologist often mentions how well I’m doing, and that my healthy diet helps me cope well with chemotherapy. He scheduled my last Red devil session for 1 August to give my white blood cell count enough time to recover, and if my chemotherapy was delayed. Thankfully, I had no delays and was well enough to fly to Bali on 26 August. Hardy and I joke about how quickly our honeymoon was over, as we arrived back on 9 September and I started my phase two Taxol chemotherapy on 12 September.”
Faithful love every day
Hardy has consistently supported his now wife of two months throughout her treatment. “He protectively and caringly held my hand in the doctor’s room when we were told I have breast cancer. I knew I was going to survive this because I have the love of my life at my side.”
“Hardy was the last face I saw before and the first face I saw after my surgery. He fed me in the hospital when I couldn’t lift my arms. He has been at every appointment, taking on household chores when I was too exhausted or ill to get out of bed. My aches and pain have been massaged away by him. My husband even researched and lovingly prepared healthy Vegan meals to lessen my side effects from chemotherapy.”
“On the tough days, he listens to me and helps me find solutions to my problems while wiping away my tears and lifting my spirit with his funny sense of humour. On the good days (this is most days), I smile from ear to ear with happiness. He reminds me why my life is worth fighting for. Besides all of this, the greatest support he has given me is he tells me every day how beautiful I am, and has faithfully loved me even more every day.”
Natalie says the oncology centre she consulted was amazing, in the fact that both her oncologist and breast surgeon specialist discussed all fertility treatment options with her. “My oncologist put me in contact with the best fertility specialist. So, before I started chemotherapy, I underwent fertility treatment, and had surgery to have my eggs removed and frozen. My father-in-law, Rob, is too funny, and often asks us, ‘How are my grandchildren doing in the freezer?’”
Natalie goes on to say their plan was to only start trying to have children once they were married. “Hardy and I have always wanted to have a family together. So, holding thumbs we’ll still be able to fulfil our wish when my oncologist says it’s safe for us to try.”
Best present of all
When asked if her wedding is the best present she ever received, Natalie responds, “Our wedding was the most amazingly special and memorable day of our lives and gave me such an exciting goal to work towards while doing chemotherapy. For these reasons, our wedding was such a blessing and the best present in my life, but this wasn’t the best present of all. My best present of all was meeting and marrying the love of my life, Hardy Le Roux.”
“I must thank Buddies For Life for this best present of all – the wonderful opportunity of sharing my story. It has motivated me and hopefully will inspire other women also undergoing treatment that we are all strong, courageous, beautiful and loved, and to always remember that our lives and loved ones are the best present of all. As the saying goes, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
The list of Natalie’s other best presents of all:
- Been given a chance to live and a second chance at life.
- The unbelievable love and support from my hubby ‘Hotty Hardy’ and family. Especially, my dad and my new in-laws, Rob and Marie, and Grand Aunty Pat, friends, work colleagues, and my post-graduate students.
- The new friendships made with other breast cancer patients I have met along the way.
Festive season plans
The newly-wed couple will be spending their festive season in their new house which they purchased in February this year. “Hardy is working during December, but we’ll be spending weekends and public holidays relaxing with loved ones and our three dogs, and enjoying Durban’s legendary summer beach weather together. We’re also looking forward to squeezing in a few festive markets too.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. firstname.lastname@example.org