Natasha had a unique upbringing. She graduated from high school at age 15. Then became the University of Texas' youngest-ever graduate, earning two undergraduate degrees – in broadcast journalism and biology/pre-med. At 18, she earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
After working her way up the television industry ladder, she became an anchor and reporter for NBC10 Boston in 2016. She had no thoughts of slowing down until one morning, she felt a sharp pain down the left side of her shoulder and found a lump. At first, she didn't think anything of it other than perhaps she had pulled a muscle at the gym. She consulted her father, a physician, about the pain. His parents had passed away from cancer, so he was understandably concerned. The pain sent Natasha to the emergency room. She remembers the ER doctor examining the area and saying, "Oh, the lump moves. That's a really good sign!" and sending her on her way with pain medications. The pain improved, but the lump didn't go away. She was still concerned.
A few days later, she started to experience chest pain. She'd take a deep breath and feel pushback. It's as if she couldn't completely fill her lungs with air. A second physician at Beth Israel Boston also tried to turn her away. He said, "Sweetie, you'll find bumps and bruises all over your body. You don't need to come in for every single one of them." He refused to do the ultrasound or CT scan, which her father recommended. She remembers asking the doctor point blank – is it cancer? He said, "No way! You're 23 with no pre-existing medical conditions." After begging him for an ultrasound, he finally did it.
It took hours to get the results back, and when the doctor returned to the examination room, the color had drained from his face. With a change in demeanor, he said, "We found an enlarged lymph node and need to do a CT scan." After the scan, the physician said, "given your age, we believe you have Hodgkin's lymphoma." That's when the panic set in.
Beth Israel immediately scheduled a biopsy and a PET scan. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a part of the immune system. It's basically a cancer of the healthy with no known cause and affects people in their 20s and 50s.
She was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Not only was there a tumor on the left side of my collarbone, but she had a tumor on the right side and a mass growing in her chest, which was growing fast. She remembers sitting on the bed in the examination room, staring at my scans and thinking, "how could that be MY body"!
With a race against time, she started chemotherapy at Beth Israel Boston. They decided to do 3 rounds of chemotherapy without radiation because radiation in the chest would increase the risk of breast cancer and fertility complications.
Natasha is proud to have advocated for her health. If she had waited a month to get an ultrasound as the second doctor had suggested, who knows where the cancer would have spread. Natasha says it's so important to listen to your body. If you feel something is wrong or notice unusual pain, get it checked out. Get your questions answered.
After hearing about my diagnosis, she was shocked, heartbroken, and honestly angry and asked, "Why me"?
Natasha had a tough time with chemotherapy. She was on 15 pills a day and pain medication round the clock. Each muscle in her body writhed in pain from cramps and spasms and felt betrayed by her body. With weight loss and weakness during treatment, she watched her body deteriorate. Her lung capacity had dropped significantly while her skin and nails turned black from the chemo drugs. She was angry and frustrated in doing small things she took for granted, like leaving the house and going for a walk.
Natasha says, "Thank God for my family. They are my greatest support system. I could not have done anything without them". She put every ounce of faith in the brilliant doctors at Beth Israel.
Then came the hair loss.
Natasha says, "It may sound trivial and superficial, but most women will tell you that hair is a big part of their identity." While she knew hair loss was imminent, nothing prepared me for the emotional toll it would take.
One day after her second round of chemotherapy, to her horror, she remembers one, two, three pieces, and then whole chunks came out as she brushed her hair. It was horrifying to watch fistfuls tossed into the trash. After a week, her eyebrows and eyelashes followed.
She could no longer recognize the bald figure staring back in the mirror. Most women facing cancer would tell you the sight is depressing.
She bought a synthetic wig and hated it. The hairline looked fake, and it was too big for her head. Wearing the wig was stressful, so she threw a baseball cap on top of it before going out. This got her thinking of a better solution. She designed cap wigs by securing 100% human hair to a cotton or velvet cap.
Now she gives FREE cap wigs to women and children fighting cancer through her 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. She believes every woman and child going through cancer treatment deserves access to a quality wig in which she can feel beautiful and confident. Wigs can cost $1000, so that's why she gives them for free. On top of mounting hospital bills, the cost of a wig is the last thing a cancer patient wants to pay for. The gift of a cap wig can give patients hope, confidence, and strength.
Today, she is in remission and is moving forward with a newfound purpose in giving hope and inspiration to others battling cancer tough the Verma Foundation #PutACapOnCancer.