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. 

2022 New England 3-Day Top Fundraisers

The 2022 Susan G. Komen New England 3-Day boasted 800 walkers and 175 crew, all of whom contributed to the $2.7 million we raised in the fight against breast cancer. Our top fundraisers were recognized Saturday morning of the event at our Bank of America Breakfast of Champions. Bank of America celebrates our fundraising champions with a collective $25,000 donation to jump start participants on their 2023 fundraising! Join us in congratulating these top fundraisers for their incredible achievements.

Our first top fundraiser is being acknowledged for multiple accomplishments! Corey H. is our Rookie of the Year as well as our Top Individual Fundraiser, raising over $23,000 for his first ever 3-Day. 

Let’s hear from Corey in his own words about his reason for committing to the 3-Day and fundraising for Susan G. Komen: 

“I commit in honor of my wife, Sarah. Sarah was a talented photographer, an animal lover, star athlete, and a fierce competitor. More importantly, she was a patient, fun, and loving mother to our two young daughters. And she was my best friend, partner for 17 years, and wife for 12 years. She was the one who always made sure we had a vegetable at every meal, that we consistently got exercise as a family, and she managed the calendar of most social and family events that filled up our weekends. She was healthy and fit at 39 years old. Last year, we were skiing in March and she had just convinced me to buy season ski passes for the next year as our girls were finally reaching the point that we could all ski as a family for a full day. Two months later, she was in a wheelchair ― diagnosed with stage 4 Triple Negative Breast cancer that had spread to her bones throughout her body. There was no known history of cancer anywhere in her family, so this diagnosis came as a complete shock to all of us. Her treatment options were limited because her blood counts were so low, but she fought hard and recovered enough that we were able to make many great memories as a family last fall. She passed away on January 3rd of this year at the age of 39, just seven months after her diagnosis. A few weeks before she passed away, Sarah underwent genetic testing and learned she had a rare mutation of the CDH1 gene, which significantly increased her chances of developing breast cancer. That mutation also means that each of our daughters now have  roughly a 50:50 chance of developing breast cancer as well. So, while I’m walking in Sarah’s honor and memory, I’m also walking for my daughters. I’m walking to help find a cure for this disease before they have a chance of developing it and so it doesn’t take anybody else’s mom, wife, daughter or sister the way it did to us.  

Our Top Fundraising Team is Sarah’s Army, captained by our Rookie of the Year and Top Individual Fundraiser, Corey H.! Together their 14 team members raised over $48,000 in their first year as a team. 

A fun fact about Sarah’s Army: Team members came from four states to participate in the 2022 New England 3-Day, and they have an “extended team” that’s participating in the San Diego 3-Day and people competing in the Chicago Marathon to help find the cures for breast cancer. 

Our Top Crew Fundraiser is Kristin S., who raised nearly $6,000 for the 2022 New England 3-Day and has raised almost $46,000 in her lifetime! Kristin has participated in 14 3-Day events and received a $300 donation from Bank of America towards her 2023 3-Day fundraising. 

A fun fact about Kristin: She has walked 9 years, all in Twin Cities, and this is her fifth year crewing (twice in San Diego, once in Seattle, with this being the second in Boston), plus she volunteered one year! All of her crewing has been at Pit Stop 4, where she has a pink megaphone that she likes to use to cheer everyone on . 

Our Small but Mighty Team is Walkers for Knockers! The 2022 New England 3-Day was their first, and in total they raised just over $40,000.  

A fun fact about Team Walkers for Knockers: They are all fitness freaks with hearts bigger than the states they’re from! 

Our Top Youth Corps Fundraisers are Grace and Dylan R., each raising $1,658! They’ve each participated in three 3-Days, with Grace raising $4,841 in her lifetime and Dylan raising $7,453 in his lifetime.  

Fun facts about Grace and Dylan: Grace loves to read and will be starting in a communications magnet this fall. She is an amazing friend, a volunteer camp counselor and swim instructor. Dylan loves skiing, baseball, and swimming. He loves to help younger kids, he serves as a swim instructor and swim team group leader and really cares for the kids. In turn they adore him and love to cheer him on too. 

Thank you so much to all walkers and crew who raised $2.7 million to find the cures for breast cancer at the 2022 New England 3-Day! 

Congratulations to the 2022 New England Crew Impact Award Winner 

Over the last 15 years, Alison G. has participated in 25 3-Day events! With over $64,000 raised towards the fight against breast cancer, we honor Alison as the 2022 New England 3-Day Crew Impact Award winner. We asked Alison what the 3-Day means to her, and we also received testimonials from her friends about why she deserves this award. 

What was your inspiration to do your first 3-Day?  

The inspiration to do my first 3-Day came all the way back in 2005 when I was a sophomore in college and looking for a cause to dedicate some time toward and help fundraise. There was a presentation from a local rep at one of the sorority houses about the 3-Day, and I was hooked. I signed up for my first event that night and have signed up for 29 more since then!   

What has brought you back to the 3-Day year after year? 

The community has brought me back. The 3-Day is my second family, and what an incredible group of men and women, all fighting to end breast cancer. The 3-Day is no small task, and people walk, fundraise and crew like it’s a part of them. And that’s what truly makes it special and unlike any other event.   

What is your favorite aspect of crewing the 3-Day? 

I prefer being more of a behind-the-scenes person and thanking the walkers that have done all the training, prep and fundraising. I get to wear wacky costumes, and make people smile. That’s my main goal at the end of the day.   

What is your best advice to anyone crewing the 3-Day? 

Be flexible! Things can always change. I’ve crewed in weather ranging from rain and sleet to temperatures ranging from 35-105. Everything may not always go as planned, but it will all work out how it’s supposed to, and you can still be proud of the hard work you’ve put in all weekend.   

What’s a fun fact about you? 

My husband and I met at space camp…as adults (we’re nerds). We just got married last May and had a subtle space/star theme to our wedding.   

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on the 3-Day? 

The most important lessons I’ve learned on the 3-Day are flexibility and planning for any scenario. Always have the tools you need to pivot to make the best out of what you’ve got. It’s key in day-to-day life, too, and something I carry with me.  

Friend Testimonials 

“I first met Alison when she was lunch captain for the Michigan 3-Day in 2015. The minute you meet her, you know that it’s going to be fun. Her infectious smile and laugh make everything—even unloading and setting up western shelters—more fun. But don’t let her fun attitude fool you, she is all about getting the job done! Alison makes sure walkers and crew alike have the best event possible. She makes being a captain look so easy, but I’ve been a captain and I know that it isn’t! She’s been doing this a very long time, but she still makes it all feel fresh and new. She really is all one could ask for to embody the 3-Day spirit.” —Amy N. 

“I am so happy to hear that Allison is receiving the Crew Impact Award. I met Allison at my third 3-Day in Atlanta, 2009. It was wet and we were all crammed into this small convention center-like place in northwest Atlanta. I was the camp hydration captain, which meant that at night, after everyone went to bed, my team had to make sure all the sports drink and water jugs were full and all the porta potties had toilet paper. Aside from those porta potties, what left this incredible impression on me was the overwhelming passion and energy of this young woman I met on the event. She would be up and running around in the middle of the night while my team was doing our work prepping camp and getting all these things ready for the next day. This of course was Alison. She would flag me down and have me run her in our little ATV cart from one side of camp to the next or haul gear from here to there. I could not believe all the things she was doing and the energy she was doing it with. It inspired me. Alison inspired me. She quickly became one of my favorite people on that event and so many of the ones following that. I found myself wanting to be around the girl who did whatever was needed for the walkers and the 3-Day, whether it was helping to find lost luggage (not her job), serving in the dinner line (not her job), setting up a tent (not her job), loading luggage into a truck (not her job) or leading as a captain for whatever team needed her (often Camp Services). She was/is incredible. I do not know where that energy comes from, but it is also so much more than the energy. She has the 3-Day spirit. The do-whatever-it-takes (see all the not her job comments above), bust-my-ass, selfless, humble, putting-other-people-first, I don’t care what I need to do, but you are going to smile (someone should get a series of pictures of all the ridiculous costumes she has worn and come up with over the years), winners-find-a-way attitude that those dealing with cancer need to be around. Boy, this could go on for a while. In the end, and trying to sum it up, Alison is what the 3-Day is all about to me, and I cannot think of the 3-Day without thinking about Alison. If that is not impactful, then I am not sure what is.” ―Jake S. 

“From the first moment I met Alison, I knew that not only was I in the presence of someone who lived and breathed the 3-Day, but also would be a lifelong friend. Her quiet dedication and commitment are infectious and I’m continually in awe of how she manages to blow away fundraising goals and motivate her supporters. In the over 10 years I’ve known her, we have gone through many of life’s ups and downs together, and I’m ever grateful for her—and grateful to the 3-Day for bringing us together.” ―Julie B. 

We’re so thankful for all our wonderful Crew! Without the Crew’s hard work, the 3-Day would not be possible. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the 2022 3-Day Series to see who else wins the new Crew Impact Award!