Natalie Lombardo ’13 was just having a routine checkup before winter break in the Student Health Center when nurse practitioner Ruth Robertson felt a mass on her thyroid.
It turned out to be thyroid cancer and Natalie had two surgeries over break. Five days after that second surgery she was back for her final semester of nursing. “It was so stressful,” Natalie said. She completed 120 hours of a clinical at Lynchburg General Hospital’s pulmonary care unit, despite the difficulty of regulating her hormones, and sleep, without a thyroid.
Check out this WDBJ7 story on Natalie.
Natalie recently breathed a sigh of relief after her last exam. “I’m so excited to graduate,” she said.
Natalie is keeping a positive attitude as she faces continued treatments (she had her first radiation over spring break). “I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said, “but I didn’t know why. I feel like this was a sign.”
After taking her boards, Natalie hopes to secure a job as an oncology nurse in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa. “I can act as a glimmer of hope,” she said.
Natalie said she has learned that her cancer was caused by a genetic defect. So her twin brother Nick, who is graduating from Temple University, is going to be tested over the summer. And if she has children, they will also be at risk. She said she is so grateful that Ruth was doing her job thoroughly and found the mass when she did.
Ruth Robertson has been amazed by Natalie’s attitude. “I just think she’s Superwoman,” she said. “I’m very proud of her.”
Dr. Lesley Friedman, who had Natalie in her ethics class this semester, was also impressed at Natalie’s ability to soldier on and make all As. Dr. Friedman encouraged her to apply for an Awareness Garden scholarship. The Awareness Garden funds scholarships for those affected by cancer or interested in cancer-related work. The day after graduation, Natalie attended a ceremony at the nearby Awareness Garden as the recipient of a $1,500 scholarship, which she can apply to her student loans.
Natalie learned about LC because her mother and stepfather play folk music and met Dr. Woody McKenize, associate professor of human development and learning, at a number of jam sessions. Dr. McKenzie urged Natalie to give LC a try.
Not only did Natalie find a great academic home, she also met her future husband. She plans to marry her LC sweetheart, Jaren Brown ’11, on Sept. 21. The wedding was originally scheduled for June, but Natalie didn’t have time to plan the wedding this semester so she had to push it back a bit.
Natalie said the LC community and nursing staff couldn’t have been more supportive during her ordeal. “With all this happening, I’m glad I didn’t feel like a number,” Natalie said. “President Garren even sent me flowers. University of Lynchburg has been so wonderful. I’m so grateful.”