Meet Our Scholars
meet natalie

years awarded

2023-2024

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Scholar Quote: My experiences and my family's experiences with my cancer treatment have inspired me to seek a career in medicine...Being a survivor myself, I will also be able to give hope to patients and families going through their own trials.

On my second birthday, I had a party, with decorations, cake, and silly string. But, the cake was made by the hospital staff, and my hospital room had been decorated instead of my house. I had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia the day before, and began chemotherapy on my birthday. I was little when I went through my two and a half year treatment, and so I don’t remember all of it. What I remember most is feeling loved by my family and community. The most vivid memory I have is of attending the funeral of my friend Alexa, who passed away from her neuroblastoma only 6 months before I was declared cancer free. While I might not remember a lot, it has shaped who I am today and how I see the world.

I have a lot of empathy and patience, which I know comes from understanding that everyone experiences unique challenges in life. These almost always have long lasting effects that you can’t see. I know that everyone has a story, and that they are going through or have gone through difficult times. I have a unique and special understanding of grief; which is something that everyone will experience at some point, but most people won’t understand it until they do. The thing about grief that people don’t understand is that it is long lasting, and never truly fades. Instead, it is less painful because we grow around grief, learning to adapt and live with it. I didn’t have a way to explain why I was mature and empathetic as a kid; but now I have the words. I find it easy to be patient, loving, and kind when I know that everyone – family, friends, and strangers – are learning to live with their own unique struggles, pain, or grief.

I have learned to live life to its fullest, planning and working hard for the future, but also making sure to live in the present, enjoying every moment I have with the people I love. I have learned to focus my time on what matters most, which is family.

I know how easy it is for life to change in the blink of an eye or for things to go wrong. But I learned at a young age how to face those moments head on, with a smile on my face, a desire to keep going, and to make the best of my situation. I learned how to look for and find joy during times of trial and stress.

I have always had a positive attitude, always able to look for the bright side in any situation. My optimism comes from the hope I learned to hold onto at a young age. I am often described as a grounded person, which for a time I thought was just my personality. But in reflecting on my treatment as I have gotten older; I realize that my grounded, peaceful, and steadfast personality is a result of the chaos and many changes during my treatment. I learned to roll with the punches, to adapt to hard situations, and to persevere.

While going through treatment, I said I wanted to be “a bone doctor”. When I got to high school, I joined the biomedical science pathway at my high school. When learning about cancer, I found the topic very applicable to my own life and experiences. I was able to better understand my own cancer treatment, which led to several conversations with my parents about my cancer journey with childhood leukemia.

My experiences and my family’s experiences with my cancer treatment have inspired me to seek a career in medicine. I hope to graduate with a nursing degree and then go on to medical school and train as a pediatric oncologist. I know that my experiences will give me a unique perspective in caring for patients and their families. Being a survivor myself, I will also be able to give hope to patients and families going through their own trials. I will carry Alexa’s memory with me as I study, to one day help kids like her, and like me.