Before blowing the judges away on The Voice Australia, Natasha Stuart loved her job performing as a singer in her band and spending her nights out with her pals.
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But then one visit to the doctor completely changed her life. At 41 years of age, Natasha was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
“I just said to my doctors, ‘Aren’t I too young?’” Natasha tells New Idea.
“She said, ‘You are on the young side,’ and I was just shocked, because I thought, ‘Oh my God, are you kidding me? This seems so out of the blue.’
“But now, I’m in contact with a bunch of different girls who are going through this in their 20s and 30s”
After coming to terms with her diagnosis, Natasha had to undergo a lumpectomy and a strenuous bout of chemotherapy, but music kept her going.
“The way I stayed positive through chemo was to go and do my gigs,” she admits.
“The first week I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, because I was so sick. But even that first week, I didn’t do a great job, but I did a gig on the Friday.
“Getting up on stage in a wig and being a normal girl was the best thing for me because it was a complete escape. I didn’t look like a cancer patient and no-one would know because I was busting out some Rihanna.”
After her chemo battle Natasha’s oncologist suggested that she undergo a mastectomy of the cancerous breast.
“My tumour was expanding at a very rapid rate,” she says. “[The doctors] like to have healthy tissue around the tumour when they take it out, but I had precancerous cells right up to the margin. So, there was no question that I was going to have surgery.”
After having several scans and discussions with her doctors, Natasha knew that the only way she would get piece of mind that her cancer wouldn’t return was if she got a double mastectomy.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to wait for my other breast to try to kill me’,” she shares.
“I just knew the only way I was going to feel happy and safe was to do both. And to be honest it’s also a symmetry thing, if you put silicone on one side and normal tissue on the other side you’re going to be lopsided.”
Of course, at the time Natasha didn’t know if she would make it through the Blind Auditions on The Voice. But, she did! So, the brave singer decided to undergo her surgery during a break from filming.
“Not knowing what would happen or how far I would get in the show, we booked the surgery,” she said.
“But then I got through and it was the best thing to take my mind off surgery because I had something fun to focus on. I thought what a gift after all the pain of chemo.”
This experience has also been extra special for Natasha who has received a lot of support of her coach on show, Delta Goodrem who also went through her own cancer battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Even though it would have been wonderful to work with Kelly Rowland, when the judges turned around, everything Delta said made me think, I need to be with you,” Natasha says.
“I sang backing vocals for her when she was probably a year or two out of treatment.
“She had finished her journey when I was with her and now, I’m going through this and she’s with me so it’s a nice full circle many years later.”
While, Natasha has remained positive and upbeat throughout her journey, she admits that it hasn’t always been easy, especially given her family history of the disease.
“My mother died from breast cancer when I was 14,” Natasha reveals. “That’s why I was so vigilant as soon as I found the lump, even though I thought it was nothing at first.”
Of course, she admits that the experience has been incredibly hard on her father.
“My dad was at every single chemo treatment and every day in hospital,” she shares.
“But, it was incredibly tough for him. One of the hardest things for me to deal with was seeing him going through this diagnosis with the other significant female in his life.
“A lot of my motivation to keep gigging and stay as strong as I could was for him as much as it was for me. I wanted him to have a different experience this time round as well. And with the benefit of 35 years of modern technology and medical research, I’m very lucky.”
Now she is living out her dreams to be a professional singer on Australian TV, singing on a Sydney stage in front of Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland and Boy George!
For more, see this week's New Idea, out now!