Thislife Online reader Natasha Michaels: ‘My first thought when I found out I had cancer was, “I just cannot die”… I want to tell my story because if it brings hope into just one person’s life, I’ll be happy’ | Photo: Nicky Elliott
We asked our readers to send us their stories of hope, and Natasha Michaels (36) replied immediately. Why couldn’t she die? And why should we never lose hope? SUSAN BENTLEY spoke to her to find out
‘I JUST CANNOT DIE,’ was my first thought when I was told I had breast cancer nine years ago at the age of 27. I was caring for my young son, father and three brothers at the time – what would they do without me?
Growing up as I did in Mitchells Plain, a Cape Town township best known for its gangs, my life had always been complicated. Early on, I was surrounded by violence – both gangsters in the community, and Dad beating Mom at home. My brothers and I persuaded Mom to leave home, and at 13 I took over the household and had to drop out of school. I fell pregnant when I was 19 and had a son, Caston, who’s now 16.
Soon after Caston was born, I found a good job with Transnet, where I still work as a planning official. Caston was eight when I got my cancer diagnosis.
Natasha doing the chemo hard yards at work as a Transnet planning official, and at play. ‘I longed for the sense of cleansing I had had as a child,’ she says
Discovering I had cancer was a double blow because I found out at the same time that my boyfriend of five years was cheating on me. It was a turning point in my life. I realised I’d never really been able to depend fully on any human beings, and decided to stop leaning on people. I broke up with him, started reading my Bible, and spent hours at night in prayer and worship.
fight to become a better you
I’d experienced God in the form of the Holy Spirit in church when I was 12. I remember crying and being aware of a sense of cleansing, like standing under a shower with water washing me fresh and clean. The experience had stayed with me always. I referred to it as my ‘church experience’ and, throughout the years of my young, wild life, when I drank too much and was exposed to much violence, I longed to have that happen again.
And now, as I read the Bible and prayed in this time of desperation over my cancer, I encountered Jesus Christ, and a new ’church experience’ happened for me, connecting me with that little girl of so long ago. I felt cleansed and refreshed once more, and so grateful for God’s care of me. So, despite losing a number of my friends to cancer and feeling angry with God, I kept up my daily prayer journalling for my son, my life, my family, my job, and trusted Jesus to guide me. I experienced peace and a fresh ability to forgive so much that had happened in my life.
Natasha: ‘I realised I’d never been able to depend fully on human beings. As I read the Bible and prayed in desperation, I felt cleansed and refreshed by God ‘ | Photo: Nicky Elliott
I keenly wanted Caston to grow up free from the negative influences I’d experienced, and used to send him inspirational texts to encourage him. I even went back to study and got my Matric in 2014 to show him we should never give up trying to better ourselves.
After my mastectomy, I went through chemotherapy, radiation and then more chemo. I lost all my hair and experienced all the usual side effects. I went into remission, which I was so grateful for, although the doctors told me I’d never be able to have another child. But they were wrong! I gave birth to another child, Connor, after a short-term relationship, and I now have a wonderful partner, Flynn, who’s the sweetest person I have ever known, and we help each other through our darkest days. Flynn wants to marry me and has bought a house for us. I am so grateful for the stability that this relationship gives me.
Natasha with younger son, Connor. ‘The doctors told me I’d never be able to have another child. But they were wrong!’ she says | Photo: Nicky Elliott
‘We should never give up trying to better ourselves,’ says Natasha, who took and passed her Matric exams in 2014 after dropping out of school at the age of 13
A SWEET MOMENT IN TIME: ENJOY THIS SHORT VIDEO OF STRONG WOMAN NATASHA WITH HER SON CONNOR!
I have constantly prayed for Caston to make wise life decisions, and he has. Now he’s the one sending me inspirational texts! He’s also grown up to be a gifted athlete, plays first team rugby at the age of 16 and and has just received his Western Province colours for the 100m sprint.
Natasha’s son Caston was eight when she was diagnosed with cancer. ‘I’ve constantly prayed for him to make wise life decisions, and used to send him inspirational texts to encourage him.’ Today, Caston is a Western Province athlete who sends his mother inspirational messages of his own!
Natasha and the the men in her life: Left to right: Caston, Flynn and Connor
I wanted to tell my story because if it brings hope into just one person’s life, I’ll be happy. This is why I am alive today – to leave a legacy of hope. Since I surrendered to God, he has never let go of me. He just never let go of my hand.’