Natalie was born on December 28, 1981 and has lived in Miami, Florida for most of her life. She attended Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart and the University of Miami. Natalie currently works at Cushman & Wakefield as part of the retail brokerage team in Miami.
Days after celebrating her 30th birthday with friends in Miami, Natalie began to feel abdominal pain. Her symptoms worsened over the next few days and Natalie began to have difficulty breathing. She 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 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.
As of today, Natalie has had nine rounds of systemic chemotherapy and two rounds of MIBG therapy (a form of radio labeled radiation). Natalie’s tumors have decreased by about 50% in size and have remained stable. According to her doctors, she is exhibiting one of the most positive responses ever seen in a patient with malignant paraganglioma. Because of treatments like these, Natalie has been able to maintain an excellent quality of life. It is the Team Nat Foundation’s mission to keep funding research for new treatments that will enable cancer patients to live a normal life and one day hopefully lead to finding a cure.
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.