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Natalia (pictured left) jogs alongside a fellow runner in Durham, North Carolina during Point to Point, a run from Baltimore to Key West.

How WTCI’s Natalia Rocha Pays it Forward

Having recently completed 14 months of cancer treatment, WTCI’s Manager of Programs & Events Natalia Rocha decided to get back into running. She spent a week in September running 7-13 miles per day as a part of Point to Point, an eight-day experience where a group of people effected by cancer journey from Baltimore to Key West to in support of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

What inspired you to do Point to Point?

In April 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25. After my diagnosis, I searched for someone in my age range who could understand and relate to me. Getting cancer in your early twenties is very different than getting cancer as a child or geriatric patient. You feel very isolated because you are at a stage of your life where you feel invisible, only to suddenly realize that you are not. Then I found Ulman, and as a result I received a lot of help during and after my treatment and met a lot of amazing people. When I finished my treatment in July 2018, I wanted to get back into running but I did not want to sign up for just any race.

Tell me about training for this event. Did you feel prepared going into it?

I have been a runner since 2012, competing in several 10Ks, 15Ks, and half marathons. The week before I was diagnosed I ran a 15K and had my best time ever, so I thought that training would be easy. Training after treatment, however, was a lot harder than I expected. I essentially started from zero and had to learn how to be patient with my body. Treatment really takes a toll on you and it takes some time to bounce back. I began training in April, when I was still in treatment, and it was really slow. Instead of just running like I had in the past, I had to run in intervals.

Natalia (seated far left) and the Point to Point team pose for a photo in Locust Point before beginning their southward journey to Key West.
Natalia (seated far left) and the Point to Point team pose for a photo in Locust Point before beginning their southward journey to Key West.

Any fears or uncertainties in the buildup to the race?

I had a lot of fears. I was alongside thirty people from all different walks of live- survivors, parents of survivors, families who lost loved ones to cancer, and people who were impacted by cancer in some way. I had a lot of fears about the group because I did not know what to expect. We did not get much information going into this, other than the fact that we would be running from Locust Point to Key West over a weeklong span and that there were some things planned for us along the way. I also worried about being in the back of the pack the whole time and not being able to run as much as I had planned. These fears, however, were always outweighed by my excitement to run and meet the people who would be by my side throughout this experience. Although I was scared and nervous, I was more excited than anything else.

What were you looking to achieve through this experience? Did you have an end goal in mind?

Going into this experience, my main objective was to restore faith in my body. I wanted to feel like my body was mine again and that I could have a say in how I was feeling. For so many months I could not determine how I felt, and I wanted to reestablish that control. I realized quickly that it was not as easy as I thought, but I am getting back to that point.

I am not sure what my end goal was- I think it was to feel like I was doing something for myself as well as an organization that helped me through one of the most difficult periods of my life. I wanted to pay it forward.

On September 22, after traveling over 1,200 miles from her starting location in Locust Point, Natalia ended her inspiring journey in Key West, Florida. Click here to learn more about the amazing work done by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.