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Natalie: A Survivor's Journey

02 February, 2021

If you saw Natalie around town you would never know she is being treated for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, yet her cancer journey has been such a catalyst of change in her life that she is now thankful for & humbled by cancer being one of her most impactful life events. Even though each person’s journey is unique, she hopes to inspire others at any stage of their experience to reclaim joy and purpose.

My cancer journey began in 2011 at age 32 when I first felt a small lump in my breast. The radiology at the time was not able to detect the lump and I was sent home to “watch it”. Fast forward two years and the lump grew to be a large ER+, PR+, HER2- tumor with total lymph node involvement. At age 34, a single mother with a son in 4th grade, my treatment was a sprint to the finish line: AC,T chemotherapy first, then a double mastectomy with expanders & full lymph node dissection, next radiation & hormone therapy that really sent my body into a shock, and finally 3 more surgeries for DIEP Flap reconstruction and oophorectomy."

Natalie and her son

After two years of treatments and a very positive fighter’s attitude, I believed I “beat” cancer. Unknowingly at the time, cancer actually beat me. Cancer left me emotionally wounded inside and detached from my physical body, still fighting alone within long after the treatment was over. I was determined to turn my back on cancer and just move forward; but soon realized the trauma of my cancer experience damped out my beautiful life force and I became disconnected. When I realized this was happening, I started a meditation & mindfulness practice to make it through my day-to-day.

Six years after my initial diagnosis, cancer saved me. In early 2019, I learned the cancer came back and spread into the bone, which meant we were in incurable territory now, attempting to prolong treatment rather than sprinting to the finish line.

Devastated, I threw myself into work as a distraction from my new reality and treatments that really interrupted my life. Shortly after, I threw in the towel of trying to stay in control of something so far out of my control. I began to work on radical acceptance and sought a skilled therapist who helped me work through my unresolved cancer treatment traumas. Within 6 months of slowing down by taking on less responsibility at work, practicing meditation & mindfulness, joining a support group, and using EMDR therapy, I had my Leo fire back. I had hope. I had a plan to see beauty every day. To smile. To help others. And, most importantly, to CHOOSE HAPPINESS every single day. 

After the first cancer diagnosis, I lost ME. Not intentionally, it just happened. The metastatic diagnosis forced me to look deep inside myself to regain my deep rooted joy & happiness that got covered up unknowingly by my own expectations of myself for many years after my initial treatment. Joining a cancer support group has been a lifesaver for me. Being with other survivors helps me feel supported and understood as I navigate the impacts of this unique life event. This is how I came to where I am today, a joyful, peaceful, loving, kind, emotionally-free woman walking into the next step & greatest phase of my life as the whole me, despite being treated for MBC until a cure is found- and I am hopeful that will happen in my lifetime!

I have nothing but good things to say about this organization. Starting with the staff, they are caring, friendly, and very knowledgeable! I immediately felt like they were looking out for the best interest of my sick mother. My main contact was Valerie and she provided me and my mother with all… Read More

Grecia, M., Caregiver, Las Vegas

ThriveNV has been an amazing program to work with! I live in a rural part of Nevada, which means that sometimes resources are difficult to find. Working with ThriveNV and Amy Thompson made all of the difference. They were able to connect us with resources and eased the burden of trying to piece… Read More

Bre T., Caregiver and Community Partner, Rural

I have been extremely impressed with the professionalism, expertise, and supportive resources that ThriveNV has provided to our community. Additionally, having bi-lingual community partners ensures that our patient population is afforded the communication and support they deserve.

Kim D., Community Partner, Southern Nevada

Jorge, I am so grateful for you and your organization, both do so much for our cancer community. You have shown the utmost respect, knowledge and care towards me and my health. You listen, answer all my concerns and are always ready and willing to assist me. You always take the initiative and… Read More

I.A., Ovarian Cancer, Las Vegas

I am very pleased with the assistance and guidance I received from the patient navigator and ThriveNV. I will definitely refer my family and friends to this service.

R.C.G, Breast Cancer
ThriveNV has become a resource of resources for cancer patients and survivors in the state of Nevada. The patient navigators have been incredibly helpful as we share resources to help patients, caregivers, and medical professionals. The addition of bilingual navigators has been an enormous value-… Read More
Natalie S., Survivor and Community Partner

Nevada Cancer Coalition's [ThriveNV program] is the best resource in Nevada for everything cancer. They are so knowledgeable and willing to assist whenever needed. I always say, ‘I wish every state had this program because the care and knowledge you all have is unmatched!' They are experts at… Read More

Nicole, Community Partner / Patient Navigator

With the help of ThriveNV and the Nevada Cancer Coalition, CHA has been able to stay up to date on patient resources, whether it's cancer prevention or cancer treatment this Coalition knows it all. Throughout the years, we have collaborated on cancer prevention projects and patient navigation. I… Read More

Liz, FQHC Cancer Care Coordinator, Community Clinic Partner, Northern Nevada

Working together with ThriveNV, specifically with Amy Thompson, made all the difference when it came to giving our mutual patient the resources and the help he needed to get back to good health. By having the support and input of ThriveNV, I found the necessary tools to pave a clear and easy… Read More

Ivonne, Case Manager, Community Clinic Partner, Northern Nevada