Cancer survivor receives Nursing degree at Caldwell University
Therapeutic skills she learned in class saved her life
Caldwell, N.J., May 20, 2018 – When Natalie Pedri walked across the finish line to receive her nursing degree May 20 at Caldwell University, she was excited to be taking the next step in her journey to become a nurse. As a new graduate she carried with her insights that most nursing graduates don’t learn even after years in the field.
Her time spent in Memorial Sloan Kettering as a patient with stage-four Wilms tumor, a pediatric cancer, taught Pedri the kind of nurse she wants to be. “I learned about nursing from the other side of the bed.”
The therapeutic skills she learned in class at Caldwell saved her life. Right before the start of her senior year, Pedri found a hard mass on her right side after doing a self-assessment, a technique she learned as a student. “With my nursing knowledge, I knew it didn’t feel right.” She was blessed to be able to connect immediately with her nursing professors, especially Dr. Kathleen Kelley, assistant director of Caldwell’s School of Nursing and Public Health, who had gone through breast cancer, which she acquired after having served as a 9/11 nurse.
With surgery and treatments, Pedri spent an entire year out of school. Her recovery was painful, but she was grateful to members of the Caldwell community, who had their “arms way open” to help.
When Pedri was worried about school and losing her hair, Kelley assured her that the university would be there for her and that every hair that fell out meant the chemo was working and was killing the cancer cells. “During the most difficult time, I was in touch with professors every day.” She learned “what the book doesn’t teach” about how to be with patients. Pedri continued her studies as much as she could by skyping into classes, listening to recorded lectures and keeping up with all her readings.
A member of the bowling team, Pedri was most appreciative to Coach Ken Yokobosky and her teammates for their support and for the fundraiser they held, which provided over $5,000 to help her with her medical expenses. The skills she learned as a student-athlete will most certainly be applied to nursing. “In my career, I will have to work in a team with therapists and other nurses.”
Pedri has set her sights on becoming a pediatric oncology nurse. Since Wilms tumor normally affects children under five years old, her eyes were opened to the needs of little ones.” I remember just looking around in the waiting room and seeing how many innocent children were affected by cancer.” Nurses, she said, are the “ones who advocate for you, are by your side 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Last fall she spoke at the New York Stock Exchange about her journey with cancer, providing hope for others at “Shave 4 a Cure” to benefit the Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation.
Pedri received the Positivity and Perseverance Award in nursing at the School of Nursing and Public Health Convocation and Pinning May 18.
Though having cancer was difficult, Pedri is thankful for her journey and says she would not have wanted it any other way. “I can use my experience as a learning experience for others.” She learned much about herself, about nursing and about appreciating the gifts in life. “I would choose Caldwell over again 1,000 times if I had to.”