In late December 2022, Natalie Daverio picked up a baseball bat for the first time. It was just two days before she and her friend, teaching colleague, and fellow Dana-Farber Cancer Institute patient, Kaitlyn Klosterman, would test out their skills at the Boston Red Sox Women’s Fantasy Camp in Ft. Myers, Florida. While she had just run a half marathon and was in good shape, baseball was definitely out of her comfort zone. Kaitlyn, meanwhile, played softball growing up, watched her husband coach college baseball, and was ready to test out her skills with fellow players and the Red Sox greats who served as coaches.
“Having someone there with me made going into it much less intimidating,” Natalie says. “It was a special experience, separate from school and treatment, that strengthened our friendship.”
Both high school math teachers in Uxbridge, Mass., Kaitlyn and Natalie met in 2020 when Kaitlyn joined the school staff after moving to Massachusetts from Florida. The two women, 34 and 30, respectively, who teach across the hall from one another, quickly formed a bond. When Kaitlyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2021, on the last day of school, Natalie was one of the first friends she confided in, and someone she regularly went on walks with to stay sane and keep her mind off cancer.
Within a month, Natalie had found a lump of her own and soon received her breast cancer diagnosis. “I didn’t know anyone my age who had cancer, so self-exams were not a priority,” Natalie recalls. “But when Kaitlyn was diagnosed, I figured I would check. Now I tell everyone: Check your boobs!”
“Natalie always says that I was her ‘horrible blessing,’” Kaitlyn adds. While Kaitlyn’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same age, 33, Natalie had no family history and wouldn’t have found her cancer as early without seeing Kaitlyn’s experience.
The two both ended up at Dana-Farber for their treatment, after initial consultations in Worcester. While they had different oncologists and treatment plans, they shared a surgeon, nurse practitioner, and nursing team, helping them form an even stronger bond throughout treatment. With overlapping treatments, they carpooled to Boston together and would request to sit next to each other for chemo infusions. They also both benefited from state-of-the-art clinical trials through Dana Farber.
“It wasn’t the experience we were expecting, but Dana Farber made it possible to make the best out of a horrible situation,” Kaitlyn says, adding that their whole school rallied around them in support.
After chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, Kaitlyn and Natalie were both cancer-free by summer 2022. Natalie celebrated by running the Falmouth Road Race on Dana-Farber’s team—she had been diagnosed ten days after running the race for the first time in 2021—and both looked forward to a fun opportunity post-treatment to attend Red Sox Fantasy Camp, thanks to Dana-Farber partners the Red Sox and Red Sox Foundation.
“So much of my time revolved around my kids and family, and cancer felt like it had become my identity,’” Kaitlyn recalls. “It was always on my mind, and it felt like I couldn’t separate myself from it. Going to Florida with Natalie was the first time I didn’t think about breast cancer at all and it felt amazing.”
The two friends were assigned the same team, the Blue Sox, with coaches Victor Rodriguez and Tom “Flash” Gordon, both former Red Sox greats, who led them and the rest of the team members—Red Sox super fans and supporters—through drills and games, honing skills and keeping a positive team environment.
“The coaches were great people: supportive, low pressure, hilarious, and it made the experience really fun for us,” Kaitlyn says. Aside from playing four days of baseball, the team enjoyed meals and happy hours together, and even did karaoke as a group.
Friends before treatment, Natalie and Kaitlyn’s bond is now stronger than ever after being on the same team to strike out cancer, from the infusion chair to the dugout. What’s next for the two, outside of math class? “Maybe a slow-pitch softball league,” Natalie says with a smile.
Learn how you can get involved with the Jimmy Fund while cheering on the Red Sox and supporting patients like Natalie and Kaitlyn.
Support Dana-Farber patients by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.