At age 2, Natalie was diagnosed with a brain tumor called Low Grade Astrocytoma. This led to three brain surgeries before the age of 10. Her second procedure damaged her ability to swallow and her left ear, eye and facial nerves, creating her beautiful crooked smile. She miraculously regained her swallow ability at age 8. Natalie’s journey has taken her to the White House in Washington D.C., Disneyland, Disney World, Iowa, San Diego — where she stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and was the first pediatric patient to receive pencil-beam proton therapy (and her pink Capitan America radiation mask) Now she’s at BYU, where she is studying to be a Child Life Specialist.
Favorite Superhero “Captain America. Before he turns into Captain America, he’s brave and strong the way he is. I see his transition into a superhero as a journey through challenges. After, he still had the same positive attitude, strength and bravery.”
Super Strength “I’m brave and courageous because of what I’ve been through. I’m positive most of the time. I try to be true to myself and confident in my abilities.”
Kryptonite “I do have confidence issues just because of the physical differences I’ve had. But I try to push past that. Up until high school I never told my story because my parents told everyone. College was a big adjustment because I felt like I should tell my story to every person I talked to.”
Heroic “My parents have sacrificed time and finances for me. During the time of my surgeries, they had to decide what to risk. My dad didn’t want to risk my IQ. It was OK if I lost my hearing, but he wanted me to stay strong mentally. I’m grateful for that.”
Sidekick “My sister Gabby. When we were little, my uncle said, ‘Gabby is an exclamation point, and Natalie is a question mark.’ He said it before I was diagnosed.”