A woman who has had cancer five times is celebrating with tough exercise challenges after being told she is free of the disease.
Natalie Yates-Bolton, a grandmother of two, has suffered two bouts of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has also had breast cancer on three occasions.
In total, the 57-year-old has endured 11 operations, 30 sessions of chemotherapy and 55 rounds of radiotherapy.
Now, the senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Salford has been told she is cancer-free after spending the last six years on a type of targeted cancer drug called palbociclib (Ibrance).
Doctors at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester are thrilled with her progress on the drug, with all scans showing the cancer has gone.
Mrs Yates-Bolton, who has always been determined to live life to the full, is now setting herself new exercise challenges.
To date, she has completed six marathons, three ultra-marathons and three triathlons.
Last year, she completed the Isle of Wight ultra-marathon and ran around half the island.
She also walked the third leg of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail through France with her mother, Myra, 80.
Over time, Mrs Yates-Bolton has also gained a PhD, trained as an executive coach, and learned to become a milliner.
She told the PA news agency: “If somebody who didn’t know my story heard I’d had cancer five times, they might think I’d been unfortunate.
“But I see it the other way – I’ve been really fortunate because I’ve got family members and friends who hadn’t been as lucky as me and didn’t get the five chances that I’ve had to get the successful outcomes from treatment.
“That’s definitely my feeling about the whole journey.
“I work with health teams in low-income countries and I’m just so well aware that my successful outcomes are because we have an NHS that, although it has its challenges, is better funded than in some of the countries I work with.
“Six years ago, I was kind of running out of options of treatments, and then this new drug became available.
“So I feel very fortunate and I think it has really focused the way I live.”
Mrs Yates-Bolton was 22 and a student in her third year at the University of Surrey when she was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, where white blood cells called lymphocytes grow out of control.
Refusing to take a break from her degree in nursing, she worked on a demanding neurological ward while having radiotherapy treatment.
Then, 20 years ago, when she was 37 and married with two young daughters, she started to suffer back pain and itchy skin.
A scan revealed a tumour attached to her heart pressing on her oesophagus. The lymphoma had returned.
With the support of her family, she fought her second battle with cancer and successfully completed her treatment in 2004.
But in 2009, cancer struck a third time when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43.
She underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and was given the all-clear.
Less than a year later, she noticed a lump in her side which proved to be cancerous and was removed with surgery.
Then, in 2017, the cancer returned for a fifth time and needed treatment.
Now, Mrs Yates-Bolton, who lives in Chadderton, near Oldham in Greater Manchester, is determined to enjoy spending time with husband, Gary, 66, and daughters Lucy, 33, and India, 29.
She also has two young grandchildren – Finley and Olympia.
She takes the drug Ibrance in tablet form once a day for three weeks, then has a week off, before starting the next cycle.
She said: “The Christie has cared for me for the last 21 years and, thanks to the wonderful medical team who have treated me, I feel enabled and empowered to live an amazing life and not be a victim of cancer.
“I am living proof you can rebuild your life after treatment and come through it stronger, and more appreciative of life.
“I have an amazing time in all aspects of my life, and I now want to make a difference to the lives of others.
“Through the university I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work on World Health Organisation projects in Eswatini in Africa and Moldova.
“The amount I now do even takes me by surprise and I really don’t think I would have done half as much if it wasn’t for the cancer.”
Dr Sacha Howell, consultant oncologist at The Christie, who has been Mrs Yates-Bolton’s doctor since 2009, said: “Natalie has now had 75 cycles of palbociclib.
“It was a relatively new therapy when she started on it six years ago, but now it’s become a commonly used treatment for some patients with metastatic breast cancer.
“The success of treatments like this, that control the cancer and thus maintain the quality of life, make a real difference to patients like Natalie.
“She is an exceptional and inspirational lady who is leading a full and active life despite the cancer.”
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer, said: “It is genuinely inspiring to hear about Natalie’s personal journey with cancer, which can be a source of hope for others whose lives are affected by the disease.
“New treatments for cancer are becoming available all the time and the NHS is always striving to use the most up to date, including this relatively new treatment which is now being given to patients with secondary breast cancer, and has helped hundreds of other people like Natalie.”