Stories of Hope

Rebirth & Renewal: Natalie’s Journey Through TNBC

Rebirth & Renewal: Natalie’s Journey Through TNBC

Breast cancer is more than a diagnosis. It’s a life-altering event for the patient and their loved ones. For many women, finding joy and comfort in the small things while clinging to hope often helps them through hard circumstances. NBCF is honored to provide funding for breast cancer patients to receive the services of trained patient navigators who support women throughout their journey.

One such woman is Natalie, who learned to find joy in the everyday beauty of her life—her daughter, her friends, and other supporters along the way. Here Natalie shares her story of resilience and renewal.


“On February 3, 2022, my life was forever changed with the call informing me that I had cancer. My 17-year-old daughter, Cori, was driving us home. I will never forget the intersection we were at. Since that day, I can’t drive through it without thinking of that exact moment.

Life moved very slowly that day. I promised my daughter I would do whatever it took to give me the best outcome, and when I was done, we were going to enjoy her senior year of high school together. Today, she’s getting ready to graduate.

Cori was the first person to know about my cancer diagnosis; when the battle is hard, she is the first one that enters my mind. I have to be here with her. Not for her, but with her. Cancer doesn’t just affect the person fighting—it affects all the people in and around that person.

Natalie painting another woman's face

I was diagnosed at age 39—before many insurance programs will even cover a mammogram—with triple negative breast cancer. I knew two people who had it before: One of them died, and the other is dealing with a recurrence.

To say I was scared is an understatement.

I found the lump in the shower. I wasn’t a regular self-exam gal, and being self-employed, my insurance was inadequate. It’s also that whole, “That couldn’t happen because I’m not old enough.” I decided to wait for changes – and changes happened fast! By the time I got my diagnosis, I was Stage 2 Grade 3. My oncologist said I was extremely lucky, and now I know I am very lucky.

“I stopped chasing the dopamine hits”

It’s hard for me to articulate the big picture I have learned through this cancer odyssey, but the best way to describe it is I stopped chasing the dopamine hits. I stopped attempting to create happiness with social media likes, buying new shoes, going on trips, or getting that funny t-shirt.

Natalie on a hike

During chemo, I learned my real priorities right away. My real priorities lit up for me. I knew exactly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. It’s not the running shoes. It’s not the sunglasses that are going to bring me the most joy. My inner circle, my friends that are family, is everything to me. Everything. That’s what gives me joy, to have the friends, my daughter, my dogs.

Don’t get me wrong, buying new shoes and relaxing by the ocean are wonderful things, but if we spend our lives chasing the next dopamine hit, we never actually create happiness. It’s when you can find joy in the most mundane things that you know you are completely happy.

Navigating treatment with a powerful support system

The chemo treatment room is a room where you can sit in and learn so much. There is no wrong answer on how you feel throughout chemo.

Angry? That’s right!

Sad? Absolutely.

Reflective? Sure.

Every emotion is correct for both the patient and the caretaker.

Emotions are endless and hard. This is where an Oncology Nurse Navigator is so necessary! I had the absolute pleasure of connecting with my nurse navigator, Jennifer, during my first chemo treatment. The energy she brought was reassuring and genuine. I felt connected and completely comfortable discussing anything.

Natalie with an unstoppable sign in a parking lot with two girl friends

With this long journey, I didn’t feel human anymore and felt like I was being passed around on an assembly line. Jennifer reminded me that I am a human being who has emotions. I deserve to be respected, I deserve to have a voice, and I absolutely deserve to have my questions answered. I was encouraged to be my curious self. Information is powerful, and feeling like I was part of my treatment plan as opposed to a petri dish has gifted me more strength to move forward.

Jennifer was able to take my overactive brain and settle it. She was honest with what I was about to embark on, but was able to lead me into taking control of what I could. I have been described as a person who ‘dances to the beat of her own drum.’ Jennifer was an outstanding advocate for me owning what I could.

Throughout my treatment, Jennifer kept my mind and spirit fed. Without her encouragement and visits, I wouldn’t feel so optimistic about my future. She was crucial and will continue to be crucial for me to stand a little stronger. Every patient deserves the high quality of care Jennifer supplied. I hope all cancer warriors obtain the support I have through an Oncology Navigator Program.

The raw beauty of resilience

When I was going through my first regimen with Taxol, Thursday was the day I was low. My daughter would see me then, and then she would also see me come back. Saturday and Sunday, I was pretty on it. I think her seeing my strength also brought back her confidence. I involved her as much as she wanted to be. She always had an open invite to come with me to appointments, to meet my doctors and the care team. Sometimes she chose not to come, and that was okay.

When my hair began to fall out, Cori inspired me to take control. I put the call out to my favorite strong female friends. They each took turns, led by my fearless daughter, cutting my hair in weird and wacky ways before shaving it off. It wasn’t sad. I had no regrets. I look back on that memory, and I am filled with love and adoration. I think it’s about knowing yourself, too, and knowing what you love.

Natalie with a weird and wacky hair cut before shaving it off surrounded by friends and family

The raw beauty this odyssey has shown me is incredibly eye-opening. I have been calling this my rebirth because nothing will ever be the same again. I say this with optimism, and I am glad to have a new lease on life with my hope renewed. I have a new opportunity to be the person I was always meant to be, and I am grateful to realize this.”

National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to getting you the help you deserve.

Publish Date: June 1, 2023

8 Comments

  1. Wasn’t provided a nurse navigator but the women who took care of me during treatments, I can’t say enough about them, they helped me alot. I wasn’t just another number to them. I had triple positive with the check 2 mutation, found during my very first mammogram and now 2 1/2 years later and double mastectomy and full hysterectomy later I’m still here fighting. Decided against reconstruction, I have I can just be a happier woman without worry of underwire and maxi pads. You have to find the funny and good things about life. The small things don’t seem as important anymore

  2. I was very isolated when I had my double mastectomy. It didn’t change my life for the better and all this upbeat positivity. No one warned me that my body would leak, for weeks. No one warned me that I would stop sleeping and become highly anxious after the surgery. I had to take Ativan. No one warned me that it would look like a train had run over my chest.

    When I went in for the surgery I was so terrified, I kept running to the bathroom with a nervous colon. The nurse kept asking me why I was running to the bathroom. She was clueless.

    They made me wait all day before taking me in for the procedure and let me know for certain that they were sqeezing me in because I was a Medicaid patient.

    The pain afterwards was incredible. They gave me oxy which just made me zone out. Mixed with Ambien, it made me sleepwalk and fall over the furniture and hit my head. Then they put me in a hospital where it was impossible. They assumed I had lost my bladder and bowel control. I could not take care of myself.

    No, I do not relate to these upbeat positive stories.

    • Hi Frances,
      I’m so sorry you had a not so positive experience with your bilateral mastectomy. I pray your journey from now is much better and I’m glad that you are alive to raise awareness on the areas of opportunities to make things better for the next woman going through breast cancer surgery.
      It does get better so please hang in there.
      Wishing you all the best in your journey ahead and lots of hugs!

  3. Excellent story. I went though the same thing at the same time. It’s a very emotional journey. Family and friends along with my nurse navigator made all the difference.

  4. I remember the day I found my lump. Almost a month to the day AFTER my yearly mammosquish. I’d had several benign lumps before… but I always got them checked because of my family history. And somehow this time I knew my luck had run out. It had.

    Triple Negative, grade 3 invasive ductal. And it was growing fast. Five months of appointments and waiting for pre-approval to do the next test, and it quadrupled in size before we finally did the biopsy. 3 days later I was in surgery and they took half the right breast getting it out.

    If my surgeon could have done the genetic test, it would have saved me a ton of grief. But the insurance only allowed an oncologist to do that, and the one in my town didn’t believe in them (I went elsewhere). My surgeon didn’t want to wait- he’d seen it before.

    He saved my life. Radiation, and then chemo… and life support a week after chemo ended. Almost 6 years of surgeries have followed and I’m only a couple surgeries from complete reconstruction.

    I’m lucky. It could have gone bad so many ways

  5. Thank you for sharing stories. It is very encouraging. I was never offered a nurse navigator. Only offered make a wish foundation. That was cut short too. Never received it. I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer in 2013. I was told I would do chemo for the rest of my and offered no hope to get off of it.
    A support team would have been wonderful. I hope you continue to be a blessing to those who are fighting and living with this diagnosis. Thank you

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