WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WAOW) -- While the world adjusted to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, one Assumption High School senior was thinking about something else: a cancer diagnosis.
Natalie Weisenbeck was ready to enjoy the final stretch of her senior year. Instead, she found herself in pain, at the doctor.
"I went in for my first doctor's appointment, because I was having stomach pain, upper stomach pain, and my upper abdomen was distended, and so my mom and I realized that was not right."'
After a battery of tests, it was revealed she had Epithelioid Inflammatory Myofibroblastic Sarcoma, an incredibly rare cancer in the abdomen that's only been seen roughly 40 times worldwide. It had never been documented in North America.
"In the beginning I was really, really scared and they didn't know how to help me for a while. But I really gave it to God one night, and I was really scared so I prayed, and the next day they told me it started to work. And I was like, holy crap that's a miracle. You don't think that stuff is gonna happen," Weisenbeck said.
The cancer was inoperable, but treatable with chemo.
She underwent four rounds of intensive treatments in Madison.
Just about two weeks after her final round of treatment, and about three months after she was first diagnosed, Natalie got the best news of her life: she was cancer free.
"My mom and I both started crying, and we couldn't stop crying for 30 minutes. And we hugged and we prayed, and it was such a relief, it just didn't feel real. None of it felt real. You never think this is gonna happen to you, and never do you think you're going to beat it either. But it was the most surreal thing, and I knew that as much as I went through, it was all for that day to hear I got through it."
Natalie says the outpouring of support from family, friends and teammates has been incredible.
She says getting, and beating cancer, has impacted in a very big way.
"Being a 17 year old girl, never do you think you're going to have to deal with this, plus a pandemic. But, it literally changed me for the better. I never really took life for granted, and I was always thankful for what I had. But this opened my eyes to every little thing matters, and you never know when you're going to lose someone you love or yourself, so don't waste it on anything, and live everyday for every day," Natalie said.
She'll continue to get scans every three months or so to monitor for any regression.
Meanwhile, she's headed to UW-Stevens Point in the fall, where she'll major in elementary education.