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A mole on my 24-year-old’s leg started bleeding – it was fatal melanoma

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Marie (left) with daughter Natalie (right) (Picture: Marie Devereux)

I’ll never forget the day my life changed forever. The day I lost my daughter. 

It was 11 November 2022. I was with Natalie, by her bedside in hospital, when she passed away from melanoma. She was only 28.   

My heart was, and still is, broken. But I am doing all I can to make sure we continue to honour her one final request: that she will always be remembered.  

Natalie was a beautiful daughter. She was always cheerful and funny. She was a wonderful sister to Nick (who is non-verbal and classically autistic) and the two of them truly had a special bond.  

She was also an incredible friend and an outstanding teacher. Her students adored her but really she had a huge impact on everyone who she came into contact with. 

Mostly, my girl was kind. She took part in many charity challenges, including a skydive, the Three Peaks Challenge and a half marathon. She was generous, not just with money and fundraising, but with her time and love.  

When she told me that a mole on her leg (that she’d always had) had started bleeding in July 2018, I was worried. 

We were just about to go on a week-long holiday to France, but I insisted we get it sorted before we left. I secured her a GP appointment for the following morning. The doctor examined the mole, and I did my best to reassure Natalie it would all be OK. 

A smiling Natalie (Picture: Marie Devereux)

However, while we were away in France, we got a phone call to say Natalie would need further investigations when she came home. By the end of August, she’d had the mole removed and it was sent off for testing.   

A couple of weeks later, we were told she needed to come back into the hospital to speak with the doctor. We knew then it wasn’t going to be an ‘everything is fine’ meeting, but as scared as we both were, we tried to stay positive.  

Sitting in their office, the consultant told us that it was melanoma – a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body – and my world stopped.

Natalie was 24. She’d been on holidays abroad in the sun but she had never been on a sunbed, nor had she ever burnt herself. 

Understandably, Natalie was terrified of the word ‘cancer’ and of what might lie ahead. But she was also determined to stay strong.   

Surgery was needed to remove any remaining cancer cells around the area where her mole had once been and doctors told her she would be closely monitored with regular scans. 

For a while, they continuously came up clear and life continued as normal. Then in December 2019, a scan showed a new lesion in her lung.   

Marie and Natalie at the The Banham Marsden March in 2022 (Picture: Marie Devereux)

I remember Natalie turning to me with tears in her eyes and saying, ‘Mum, it’s now Stage 4’. Lost for words, we hugged each other tightly and decided we were in this together.  

She was referred to The Royal Marsden, a world-leading cancer centre, for radiotherapy, consisting of three doses over three consecutive weeks. 

By the third week, scans showed that the lung lesion had significantly shrunk. We were ecstatic – the radiotherapy had worked. Everything was looking positive. 

Natalie continued to have regular monitoring scans and then, sadly, a year later, a new lung lesion was detected. 

This time, she was treated with targeted therapy, where the proteins that control how cancer cells grow, divide, and spread are directly targeted. This was administered in the form of a tablet every day.

For 18 months, things were once again fine and there were no lesions present on her scans. But then the cancer returned a third time, leaving immunotherapy as her only option.  

Marie with some of Natalie’s close friends at the Banham Marsden March (Picture: Marie Devereux)

Unlike chemotherapy, which uses drugs to target and kill fast-growing cells, immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to target cancerous cells. Natalie would begin having a combined dose of two drugs, every three weeks.  

She was amazing, never once complaining. She carried on with life and even continued to go back to work. 

She and I took part in The Banham Marsden March in May 2022, which saw us walk 15 miles together and raise just over £2,000. Crossing that finish line with my daughter will forever be one of my most special memories now. Natalie vowed to complete it every year. 

Unfortunately, just as she began her immunotherapy treatment that September, new lesions were detected on her brain and liver. The melanoma was attacking hard and fast, and Natalie began to deteriorate.  

She was taken ill at home, with worrying signs she could have swelling on the brain. We rushed her to the critical care unit, where doctors managed to get her stable. After a few days, however, we were told they couldn’t make her better. 

Natalie was amazingly brave and didn’t cry, complain or get angry, but accepted her fate.   

Natalie’s friends commemorated her with signs and pictures (Picture: Marie Devereux)

I was still in total shock. Everything had happened so quickly. Only a few days before she went into hospital for the last time she had been working at school as a teacher. Now, she was being moved to a ward and we were preparing to say goodbye. 

After four years of hard treatment, she passed away. Despite snow, around 240 people came to Natalie’s funeral to say goodbye. 

A further 250 people attended a separate church service her school put on just for her students and their parents. My heart ached to hear such wonderful things about her from both her students and colleagues. She would have been so humbled. 

Today, to keep Natalie’s memory alive, we are continuing to raise funds for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. This will go towards the hospital’s melanoma research, so we can find new treatments for patients like Natalie all around the world.    

I’ve since taken part in The Banham Marsden March for a second time, only this time I had my husband, Natalie’s boyfriend and 35 of Natalie’s closest friends, colleagues and family members by my side and we raised £15,000.   

Friends and relatives have raised money in Natalie’s name (Picture: Marie Devereux)

This year, I walked the first 10 miles with a friend, and my husband and son joined me to walk the last five miles together.  

Taking part is not only an amazing way to raise awareness and funds, it’s also a chance to meet other people in the same position as you. 

When you’re grieving, there is a feeling of loneliness as often, people just don’t know what to say to you. I’ve now realised that I am not alone.   

To date, we’ve raised over £34,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity from friends and family members’ fundraising. 

Natalie’s cousins in Jersey ran the virtual London Marathon and organised a quiz night for over 100 people. Her friends, cousins and my husband have all taken part in half marathons and marathons, and I jogged 40 miles in January. And we all took part in a 10k run for the first anniversary of her passing, too.   

I also found Natalie’s bucket list shortly after she died, which has led me to signing up for a skydive in June this year – her birthday month – when she would have been turning 30. 

I just hope Natalie would be touched to see that we’re carrying on her legacy, and we want to make sure there are no more stories that end like hers. 

So many people have moles and don’t worry about them or get them checked, but melanoma is a real issue. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. It really can happen to anyone, even my baby girl.  

You can support Marie’s fundraising in memory of Natalie, or find out more about The Banham Marsden March here. 

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]. 

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