Finding the Light at the End of the Tunnel

15 October 2020

It’s the unfortunate reality that breast cancer has touched the lives of many in some way or another. For Natarsha, October is a particularly difficult month – it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and her knowing the journey of this disease all too well.  

In 2008, Natarsha realized her world was about to turn upside down at the young age of 33 when she did a self-exam and noticed something abnormal.

“For me, personally, I went through a period of anxiety and depression,” she said. “It was a very life-changing traumatic experience – which, in the end, I’ve come out stronger from.”

But instead of harping on the difficult and distressing times she’s endured, she chooses to focus on what’s important to her: happiness, positivity, and love for life.

In fact, she credits the YMCA for rebuilding the confidence in herself and helping her to find a supportive community; one that understands what she’s experienced, but also one that is compassionate and always has a lending ear to listen.  

After three surgeries and five years of hormone therapy, Natarsha joined Ys LiveStrong Program, a program that offers people affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to engage in physical and social activities focused on strengthening and empowering each individual survivor. It’s a program that also helped to build up her confidence with her body again.

But it was having those personal conversations and connections with other cancer survivors in the group that had a real impact on Natarsha.  

“A lot of the time when you’re going through this, you feel like you’re alone because you don’t get to connect with that many people that are going through it – having this space was vital, especially to my mental health,” she said.

Before being diagnosed, she prided herself in being someone who was in top physical condition and super active.

“I was just ending my treatment, and I was trying to really figure out what my next step in life was and what I could do to make my life better and make myself feel better,” she said. “Getting back to working out after having not done anything physical for the past 5 years was pretty tough, because physically I wasn’t strong, and I just wasn’t confident. Coming to the Y was very helpful for my mental health and also my physical health.”

It was from then on out that she fully immersed herself in the life that is the Y. From personal training to taking group exercises classes, the Y really helped to improve her quality of life. It also gave Natarsha the realization of her desire in wanting to be able to do that for someone else.

She credits the Y immensely for restoring her love of fitness; an attitude that eventually led her to be an instructor and personal trainer at the Y.

“I just felt like it was my calling. It changed my trajectory on life and my entire well-being,” she said. “Having fitness in my life, and just being able to help people and connect with people is everything for me.”

Having faced years of hardship and challenges, Natarsha’s positive attitude and outlook on life continues to shine through to this day.

“I live with the mindset of not letting a lot stress me,” she said. “Because for me, despite my dad passing away, cancer is probably the most stressful thing that can happen to me,” she said. “I really just dig within myself and find that balance. I mean, I have my moments cause we’re all human. But if I can get through the most stressful thing that ended up not taking my life, I can get through anything.”

Natarsha remains an active member within the cancer community, lending help, guidance, and education for people currently going through a battle she once fought – advocating that her story is a testimony of, despite the adversity, how far one can come.

This October, Natarsha celebrates 12 years of remission.

“When you are going through it, you’re scared, you don’t know how your life is going to change and you spend a lot of time mourning. You mourn about what your life used to be. What your body used to be. What your health used to be. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Three years ago, I came to that light. I just followed the path and I’m here.”