A Young Diagnosis – Natalie W.’s Story

We know of the statistic, “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime,” but we often don’t think that could happen to women who are young. Women aren’t advised to get mammograms until age 40, so what happens when you feel a lump in your breast before then? It’s important to be your own best advocate, and that’s exactly what 24-year-old Natalie W. did. 

What is your connection to breast cancer? 

I like to call myself a “live-r.” I am currently living with metastatic breast cancer.  

What is your story? 

In Spring of 2021, I felt a lump in my breast while I was showering but I did not think anything of it at the time; some women just have lumpy breasts. Finally, after some more noticeable changes to the area and my intuition that something was seriously wrong, I decided to get the lump looked at by my primary care physician. Two days later I had an ultrasound, a mammogram and emergency biopsy that afternoon. A week later, in November of 2021, at 24 years old, I was diagnosed with stage II HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma. Body scans a week later showed a few spots of concern on my bones, further progression than anyone had hoped for, and thus, metastatic breast cancer. Since my diagnosis, I have completed six rounds of chemotherapy, had a total mastectomy, 33 rounds of radiation, and continue to get infusions of Herceptin and Zometa.  

Why did you sign up for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day? 

I actually signed up because I love to walk and challenge myself, not knowing it would turn into an unforgettable experience with my mom and best friends.  

Why do you think early detection is important? 

Early detection saved my life. Early detection means earlier treatment and that is so crucial when dealing with cancer. We need more awareness for young women to check themselves monthly. A mammogram when you’re 40 should not be the first time you take action.  

What advice would you give to other young women going through a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment? 

Some days will suck, and you’ll want to lie in bed and cry and scream, “why me?” and you should give yourself that grace and allow that. However, life moves fast and if you’re able to go out and enjoy it, you shouldn’t let your diagnosis hold you back from living. Believe me, this is no fun and no walk in the park, but if you try to treat your life as normally as possible, it really helps distract you from the obvious.  

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Trust your intuition and your gut. We know our bodies better than anyone. If you think something is wrong, speak up and advocate for yourself and don’t stop until you get to a doctor who will listen.   

Trust yourself and trust your body. Breast cancer does not discriminate on race, ethnicity, age or sex. 

Letter From a First-Time Walker

Mother of two and Placerville, CA resident Heidi S. has raised money and participated in many breast cancer events since her breast cancer diagnosis 20 years ago. Now, she’s excited to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® and become a part of the wonderful community that is the Pink Bubble. We asked Heidi to tell her story as she embarks on her journey for the 2022 San Diego 3-Day. 

Hello 3-Day Family,  

It has always been about HOPE. Twenty years of hope, in fact. I am so honored and excited to participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day ® for the first time!  

This year, November 2022, marks an incredible milestone for me. I will be celebrating 20 years as a breast cancer survivor! I am choosing to participate in the Komen 3-Day to not only celebrate all the memories I have been blessed to make, but to offer hope to those who are currently fighting this disease.  

My story is typical of many other women who share this sisterhood. In 2002, at age 36, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was married not yet 10 years, with two little boys aged 5 and 2, and our world was rocked to the core. Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and reconstruction became our lives for several years. My only hope was to create as many family memories as I could and live to see my boys grow up. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to report that those little boys are now 25 and 22.   

Over the years, with my husband and boys in tow, I have raised money for several organizations to support the cause, help find the cures, and give back for all the support that was shown to us in our time of need. My best friend and I have walked in other events in several cities over the years, raising funds, and participating for those who cannot. Offering hope through service and shared vision is life changing. There is real strength in numbers! I am beyond excited to experience this with the 3-Day®!  

I have found that raising money for the 3-Day has been pretty easy with the tools we are given. I posted my link on my Facebook page and within a few days had raised $1,700! Reposting this week has bumped me to almost the full $2,300. With several months until the walk, I am certain I will meet and exceed my goal! 

I am looking forward to the Pink Bubble experience for so many reasons. Hearing stories of hope, determination and resilience is always a reminder of why we all do what we do. The energy of the crowd coming together for a common goal, that feeling of accomplishment for walking farther than I ever thought I could walk and sleeping in a pink tent are all things I am so excited for. There is such beauty in shared experience.  

So, from this newbie to the 3-Day family, thank you for welcoming me, encouraging me, and helping me celebrate…life.  

“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.”—Christopher Reeve 

Heidi S.  

Team 20 Years of Hope 

Would you like to join Heidi and thousands of other dedicated men and women who, each year, pour their hearts and souls into taking on an incredible challenge: a 3-day, 60-mile journey? Learn more here.