Our dear Natalie was born on December 28, 1981. She spent most of her life in Miami. She attended Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart and the University of Miami. In 2009 Natalie moved to Chicago, which she called her second home.
Days after celebrating her 30th birthday, after feeling shortness of breath and abdominal discomfort, Natalie rushed to the hospital and was admitted into Northwestern’s Intensive Care Unit, with her heart and lungs in distress. Natalie was intubated, and in the process her trachea was ruptured due to the unknown presence of tumors. From that moment forward, her life changed forever. Natalie was diagnosed with malignant paraganglioma, a rare and aggressive neuroendocrine tumor. Unbeknownst to her and previously undetected, Natalie’s body had multiple inoperable tumors.
A week later, while Natalie was still on life support, the decision was made to start chemotherapy immediately. It was a risky choice since Natalie still had open wounds and was recovering from the reconstruction of her ruptured trachea. Natalie’s cancer was so aggressive and advanced that there was no time to waste; the tumors were large and had metastasized.
Over the course of six years, Natalie went through various treatments including different forms of chemotherapy and radiation. She was a fighter. Natalie never gave up and fought this terrible disease with grace and dignity. Unfortunately, the disease won the battle.
On November 7th, 2017, Natalie passed away peacefully in Chicago surrounded by family and friends. She lived each day as if it were a gift, because to her, it was, and she did not take it for granted. Natalie stayed true to her faith and fought to live her life to the fullest.
Shortly after Natalie’s diagnosis in 2012, her closest friends came together and founded the Team Nat Foundation. It is the Team Nat Foundation’s mission to keep funding research for new treatments that will not only enable cancer patients to live a normal life, but to hopefully one day lead to finding a cure. Natalie was able to travel, work and live her life, and we want to give this gift to those who suffer from this disease.
What are neuroendocrine tumors?
The neuroendocrine system is made up of cells with similar properties that are found throughout the body. These neuroendocrine cells, as their name suggests, function as part of the nervous system and the endocrine system: they can secrete hormones and proteins that act on both systems.
Cancers that arise in the neuroendocrine system are found throughout the body, including in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract (e.g., stomach, intestines). Cancerous neuroendocrine cells often flood the body with inappropriate hormones or neurotransmitters.