TEN years ago Natalie’s grandfather spent was forced to make a daily journey to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

The six-week course of radiotherapy treatment would save his life – but it would come at a cost.

“It really took it out of him,” said Natalie Shirley, a 28-year-old physiotherapist.

Natalie herself knows what it’s like to make that journey every day. A former Stratton resident, she used to commute to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital – before eventually deciding to move to Oxford and closer to her job.

“I found the commute a real struggle sometimes,” she said. “But I’m aware that’s what people have to do when they need radiotherapy in Swindon.”

Last weekend, Natalie returned from a lung-busting trek to the foot of the world’s highest mountain, Everest.

In the process she raised £7,500 for Brighter Futures, smashing her £3,500 target.

Natalie said: “I just think it’s such a good thing for Swindon to have a radiotherapy unit of its own.”

She spent months fundraising for her Everest trip, organising raffles, a charity night at the Coleview Community Centre and winning support from businesses like the Royal Mail.

Together with childhood friend Katie Hall, 27, former Kingsdown pupil Natalie flew into capital Kathmandu on September 21.

They boarded a smaller plane to the mountain-top Lukla – often described as the world’s “most dangerous airport”.

“It has a 500 metre runway,” said Natalie, who said the experience was “quite crazy”.

The pair spent the next 12 days trekking through Nepal’s mountain scenery with seven others. The trip, which was organised by company Really Wild Challenges, took them past mountain passes, through tiny villages and along stunning waterfalls.

“We went over four or five suspension bridges,” said Natalie. “They were really high and I didn’t want to look down.

“One was only a month old, because the other bridge had fallen down. Before we went across it a Sherpa made a little prayer symbol. We were a bit apprehensive walking across it after that.”

Natalie very nearly didn’t make it to Everest Base Camp, the goal of their trek, after suffering a bout of altitude sickness.

“I got really bad headaches,” said Natalie. “But the thing that got me the most was the shortness of breath. After a couple of steps when you’re up there you have to stop. You’re walking at a snail’s pace.”

But she managed to make it to base camp with friend.

Now back in the UK, she’s able to reflect on her fundraising success.

“It didn’t seem real,” she said. “Before the trip I was just so focussed getting to my target, then preparing for the trip.

“I’m just so grateful to everyone who helped.”