YOUR story : natalie

  Thursday, 7.11.13

is it just me or is summer literally flying by?!
June felt like a heartbeat & now somehow we are already approaching the middle of July!!

i have had the honor to meet with many incredible people for the i want to know YOUR story project & to say i am eager to share them all is an understatement. i wish there were more of me so i could get them all up quickly!

but alas, i am only one... so one at a time, here they come!

without further ado,
please meet Natalie.
this is her story.

who are you, where are you from, what excites you, what is your PASSION... what's your story?

I am Natalie Silvestri. I am married to my best friend Michael, and we live in an old house in Plymouth.
I am an Oncology Nurse and this is my PASSION.

I have worked on a Bone Marrow Transplant unit at Karmanos Cancer Institute for the past 7 years.
When I tell people what I do for a living, the 2 questions that almost always pop up are,
“What is a Bone Marrow Transplant?”
“How do you do what you do?”

So let’s start with the first...
A Bone Marrow Transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells.
My patients usually have blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
They come into the hospital 7 days before their transplant, receive high dose chemotherapy for 6 days,
and then on “day 0”, receive their bone marrow transplant from a donor.
A donor can be their sibling or from someone they don’t know, which is called a matched unrelated donor (MUD).
They stay in the hospital until the new bone marrow takes over their body.
This can take up to 30 days, but most of my patients stay longer because of complications that arise after transplant.
We have had patients who have been hospitalized for up to a year. After taking care of these patients for that long,
it’s difficult to not become close to them and their families.

“How do you do what you do?”
Quite frankly, I don’t know how I do it.
I watch young people fight for their lives.
I hold patient’s hands as they pass away.
I hug family members when they break down after seeing their loved one suffer.
I see the awful side effects of chemotherapy and the side of cancer no one likes to talk about.
I become emotionally attached to people who may not live.

I do it because they need someone who cares.
I don’t really have a good answer for people when they ask me this question.
The best I have come up with is “because I can”.

Maybe it’s because I work with my best friends,
who help bring laughter and happiness to hard days.

Maybe it's the patients that come back 7 months after their transplant, with tears in their eyes that say,
“I am cancer free and living my life again. Thank you.”

Maybe it's the 15 year old girl, whose mom is dying, and says to me,
“Thank you for taking care of my mom. She loved you and always told me you were her favorite.”

Maybe it’s the patient who is being discharged after a life saving Bone Marrow Transplant who says,
“Thank you for helping me get through the hardest moments of my life. I could not have done it without you.”

Maybe it’s going to a patient’s funeral and their widowed wife comes up to me and says,
“Leaving him at night was so hard for me to do, but knowing you were there, taking care of him, set my mind at ease.
I will forever be grateful and I will never forget you.”

Maybe it’s the 22-year-old, with the infectious, lovable personality, who has such a passion to live, despite her 5% chance of survival.

(when i met up with Natalie, i had asked her to bring anything that relates to her story.
below is appreciation in the form of cards from some of her favorite patients )

My patients are so incredibly inspiring.

Whenever I think I am having a “bad day,” I quickly realize that my “bad day” is nothing compared to what my patients go through everyday.
People wonder how I do what I do. How could I possibly stay positive and inspired working with people who battle life long illnesses?
My response to them:

A Cancer Center is not a place of death;
it’s a place of life, hope, and inspiration.
It is my passion and I am privileged to have one of the most uplifting jobs in the world.

what are 3 words that describe you & your LIFE?


what do you love? who do you LOVE?

I love my husband, my family, my friends, my home, yoga, country music,
traveling, painting my nails, my bike, shopping, eating out, coffee, making a difference,
porch reading, TOMS, going to the movies solo, greeting cards, cotton candy, Ellen Degeneres,
polka dot socks, anita’s kitchen, chap-stick, instagram, popcorn, detroit.

Natalie was the person who introduced me to these quote cards,
so i think it's quite fitting that she brought along two of her favorite quotes.
here is one...

Natalie has wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a little.
this is a journal entry written when she was 7 years old!!!
it now hangs next to her diploma from nursing school. so cool!

this awesome friendship bracelet, which has 'super friend' inscribed on the inside, was given to Natalie by a co-worker. too cute!
i love the close relationships she has created with her co-workers.

last, but not least,
what is your most favorite quote?!

"i think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before
how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way
and that so many things that one goes around worrying about
are of no importance whatsoever."
- Isak Dinesen

Natalie, you are truly INSPIRING...
thank you so much for sharing YOUR story!

with love & admiration,


want MORE
'i want to know YOUR story'?

get INSPIRED! just

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