This blog post is part of a month-long focus on breast cancer awareness and prevention. Throughout October we’ll spotlight three courageous women—employees, friends and colleagues—who have touched our lives while battling the disease.
Nathalie Turner was only one year into her new career as a partner marketing manager for VMware when her life was suddenly turned upside down. In an annual screening, pre-cancerous cells were discovered in one of her breasts, revealing stage 0 ductal carcinoma in citu (DCIS). This non-invasive form of cancer involves abnormal cells in the lining of the breast milk duct.
With no hereditary link to breast cancer, Nathalie’s 0 stage DCIS diagnosis took her completely by surprise, especially because she has always made good health a top priority.
“I consistently get annual physicals and I make healthy choices overall. If breast cancer can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have caught it early.”
The Road Less Traveled
Fiercely independent, Nathalie says she has always carved her own path in life. Yet here she was, through no choice of her own, being pushed into the growing number of women labeled as breast cancer victims. She didn’t feel comfortable with that label, and almost as if to prove a point, she took matters into her own hands.
In a move that some family members thought was extreme, Nathalie underwent a double mastectomy. Her aim was to eradicate any possibility of the breast cancer advancing, and at the same time avoid lengthy chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I never thought of myself as the kind of person to choose major surgery over other potential options. But I felt it was the best choice for me – a choice that gave me peace of mind and a faster path to recovery,” said Nathalie.
With her two children at major turning points in their lives – one was a freshman in high school and the other a freshman in college – she wanted nothing more than for her cancer to be in the past so that she could focus on the future.
A Strong Support Network
Nathalie’s clients at VMware, along with the Channel Impact team, also supported her with plenty of breathing room. Already a remote worker, she was offered the opportunity to take off as much time as she needed. While she appreciated the flexibility, Nathalie instead chose to work nearly full time as soon as she was able to. It provided an excellent source of stress release, she said. To ensure she was getting the rest she needed, she became even more efficient in her work, using all the collaborative tools and remote technologies that her employer made available to her.
“Part of my recovery was feeling useful, being busy and doing what I do best – serve our partners,” Nathalie said. “It was important to me to do that. I didn’t want to be shut out. I wanted to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible.”
Getting Help and Giving Back
Although her initial inclination was to keep quiet about her mastectomy because she didn’t want to scare her family, especially her aging parents, Nathalie’s sister convinced her to share her story. She told her closest friends about her surgery and they proceeded to bring her food and flowers—and put a smile on her face.
With her recovery going smoothly, Nathalie was recently invited by a very good friend to support the newly formed New Jersey chapter of the Bloom Again Foundation. Always willing to give back, she soon found herself on the chapter’s board.
“Bloom Again helps women who are struggling financially – many of them near the poverty line. Whether they need help paying the landlord, the gas company or some other bill, we take the financial burden off their shoulders so that they can get well without stress,” Nathalie said. “They don’t have to be cancer patients. It can be any kind of struggle.”
Now, one year after her surgery, Nathalie takes great pride in the way that she has handled her approach to DCIS—and to living life on her terms.
“In reflecting on this past year, what I’ve learned is that there is nothing more important than your health. Be diligent. You can’t be of help to others unless you are in good health yourself,” said Nathalie.