Cancer Survivor Natalie Holland’s Story
Natalie, who currently lives in San Antonio, TX, recently posted a video in our support group “Pink Sisters”. That video helped me, and I’m sure others, because it was 2 simple exercises that we could do to get our strength back after surgery due to breast cancer. I find myself doing these 2 simple moves all the time – but especially right before yoga. According to Natalie “practicing Pilates was paramount for my physical recovery.” This is why I am so very happy she decided to share her story of survival with us.
When given the diagnosis of Breast Cancer Natalie found it hard to share the news. “Telling my family was extremely difficult. I knew that I was about to share news with them that would cause feelings of pain, sadness, and fear. There are still difficult things….lingering side effects….financial strain…creeping anxiety every time a scan rolls around. At least now when challenges arise, I can laugh and say, “Hey….at least it isn’t cancer!””
“I am a 38-year-old mom to three girls (Maggie, Sarah Jayne, and Genevieve), two dogs (Astro & Mollie Mae) and some fish. I am wife to an incredible dream-boat of a husband, David. I am a teacher. (For ten years, I taught high school science. Now I teach Pilates, educate others on the miraculous healing benefits of essential oils, and sell organic makeup. ) I am a breast cancer survivor. My favorite thing to do is laugh.
A bit about my cancer journey. My story begins like so many others…with the discovery of a lump. I wanted to brush it off, but something urged me to have my doctor take a look. The palpable lump warranted a mammogram. At 36 with no family history, I think the odds for the lump being malignant were around 0.3%. Pretty good odds. I wanted to believe I was golden, but something told me to start praying for strength. I arranged a babysitter for my youngest (2 at the time) the day of the mammogram. My husband was overseas in Afghanistan. I figured I’d go for the mammogram then meet a friend for lunch since I had the luxury of a sitter. Well. So much for plans. The mammogram on October 24, 2012 led to an ultrasound then to a conversation with the radiologist in her office. She directed my attention to the images on her screen and pointed out the unwelcome guest which she believed to be cancer. She was able to schedule me for biopsies the same day. I got the confirmation call two days later. In the year following that day, endured a bilateral mastectomy, chest expansion, several reconstructive surgeries, chemotherapy, chemical menopause, hospitalizations for infections, and finally the removal of my ovaries, uterus, and cervix.
Cancer taught me many things, but I would say that one of the greatest things that I learned from the big “C” is the realization that we all have a big “C” in CHOICE. Though no one would choose cancer, we can choose many other things…We can choose how we allow cancer to affect us….We can choose to see that it comes with a stark realization that, good or bad, each day is an incredible gift…We can choose how we live our beautiful, messy, crazy, complicated, unpredictable lives. “
With zero family history the last thing this 36-year-old mom expected was this. But she found solace someplace a lot of us did. “As for support groups, enter the Pink Sisters. I really do not know how I would have made it through the thick of treatment without them. The kinship I found among them was immediate. I live in a metropolitan area with many resources and support groups for women with breast cancer…but I never really found the time to attend. By the time I went to a million doctor appointments, all my sitter time (and money) was burned and I didn’t really want to spend even more time away from my kids. The beauty of the virtual Pink Sisterhood is that I can ask any question – be it big, small, intimate, embarrassing, or anything else – at any time of day, and there is always someone there with answers…support…kindness….laughter.”
The funniest thing Natalie recalls about her journey is something I think we can all relate to. “My youngest daughter (two at the time) told me that my boobies looked funny….just like popped balloons! (This is after she walked in on me when I was shirtless and my husband was cleaning my drains.)”
When she’s not listening to her “Kicking It” playlist with everything from Eminem to Jeff Buckley, she plays her fight song “Roar” by Katy Perry. She has a great page with the song and a picture montage of her journey. It’s a must see! http://hollandpilates.com/?p=49
When I asked her for words of wisdom for someone who is just being diagnosed, Natalie said the following: “Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Tackle one mountain at a time. Let others help you. Cry, vent, and scream when you have to, but don’t let cancer turn you bitter.”
Authors note: Please visit Natalie’s website at www.hollandpilates.com
You will hear the support group “Pink Sisters” talked about a lot in these stories. If you or anyone you know is facing breast cancer please comment below so I can get you the information on Pink Sisters.