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At the tip of Africa lives an extraordinary 12 year old who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when she was just 11. Natalie Cohen’s story has touched the hearts of thousands across the globe, her courage and will to survive mirrored by her families absolute determination that she had to be given a fighting chance.
Shirley Lowe, a single mother of two had recently survived a tough emotional patch and with a successful career in the music industry and arts development behind her, her children were now her joy and strength. Watching them grow was Shirley’s greatest pleasure.
Then, her world shattered. Her daughter Natalie, aged just 11, took ill and was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called chordoma. South African medical experts said there was nothing they could do and told the family to go home and prepare for the worst. Palliative care was all they could focus on, they were told.
But Shirley and Natalie’s father Jonny refused to accept this prognosis. Jonny scoured the globe for a medical team that could help save their child’s life while Shirley tended to Natalie’s needs. Desperate, afraid, but determined, they clued themselves up and chose a team based in Boston, USA, that offered operative hope for Natalie. The costs were staggering and the procedure extremely risky, but it was the only thing that offered their child a remote chance of survival.
With Jonny looking after Natalie’s brother Kola in Cape Town, Shirley and Natalie boarded a flight to Boston. A mother and a child doing what they had to, not knowing what tomorrow would hold. Their plane tickets had been sponsored by a generous friend but they had absolutely no idea where the money would come from to save Natalie’s life.
A trust was set up and friends and former colleagues were asked to spread the word. An online campaign to share Natalie’s story and gently ask for help was launched. It is called ‘Natalies Cirlce of Love’ and has drawn thousands of people across the globe into a circle of care and support for this remarkable child. A video was created as a gift to the family that shared Natalie’s story. It went viral on Youtube.
Meanwhile, in Boston, a series of world-first marathon operations saved Natalie’s life and she began the long, painful road of recovery. Her young frame had to be rebuilt after a number of vertebrae were removed from her spine to reach the tumour in her chest. Beating all the odds, and displaying astounding courage, will and maturity, Natalie has begun to walk again.
In April 2012, during the filming of this episode a new chordoma tumour was discovered in Natalie’s chest. Shirley and Natalie returned to Boston where surgery was performed and six ribs removed. They returned to Cape Town and continued their brave fight.
Natalie passed away peacefully in November 2013 with Shirley at her side. We are truly grateful to have been invited in to spent time with her, her brother Kola and of course Shirley herself. In this deeply touching episode you’ll journey with Shirley and Natalie in an intimate account of their lives. Thank you dear Natalie for allowing us in.