Pushing for my degree through the Navy, motherhood and breast cancer.

Earning her degree in business administration while battling breast cancer, Nina is showing her kids to never give up. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Robiños)

My degree from Purdue Global shows my kids to never give up

Nina earned her degree as a Navy veteran and mother of three while battling breast cancer. She is sharing her inspiring and beautiful story of how she pushed through for the comeback she was determined to finish.  

I joined the Navy after high school. While in the Navy, I had my oldest son at 21, and I didn’t have the best support system at the time. His father and I didn’t have that connection to stay together and raise him. We were both really young, and we ended up separating. I felt like the best decision for me was to leave the Navy even though I didn’t want to. I was living in Washington at my last duty station, and my parents were going through a divorce, so I decided to move home to help them through it. While I was home, I was going back to school off and on while I was working. It became too overwhelming for me as a single parent with a job to do school full time, so I had to take a step back.  

Then I met my husband, and we have been together for 12 years. We moved to South Carolina together, started a business, and I decided to try going back to school. At that time, I got into a nursing program, and right when I did, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I had some health complications with her, and we decided that we needed to be closer to family. We ended up selling our business and coming home to Indiana. So again, my plans to go back to school hit another setback. I felt like I kept putting everything before myself and what I wanted to do. When we moved to Mishawaka, Indiana, and my husband was stable enough after his career change, I told him I really want to finish school. This is for me. I need to get my bachelor’s degree. 

I ended up finding Purdue Global, which was awesome because, as a working mom, I needed an online program. And because I was unhappy with the job I was in, I decided to leave and pursue school full time. I was fortunate enough to do so because of my husband. He always tells me that he is so proud that I am graduating, but I tell him we should be proud of each other because I wouldn’t be able to complete it if it weren’t for him. He then got a job offer in Pennsylvania, so we moved from Indiana and away from a lot of my family. That’s when I began struggling through another obstacle. 

I was suffering from a form of depression, and it was a rough semester in school since I was in Pennsylvania away from my family. It was kind of a dark time for me, so I ended up having to drop my classes and take one term off to get myself together. Finally, I said to myself, “I’m too close. I have to finish.” After taking that term off, I started right back. I had some more hiccups, and, in March of 2022, I found out I was pregnant with my second son. However, I only had five or six classes left, so I kept pushing. 

This was my third pregnancy, and it ended up being very complicated. I was suffering prior to the pregnancy with an umbilical hernia, and 10 days after a cesarean section, I had surgery to have it repaired. And through all that, I was still in class trying to make sure I finished my degree.  

In January I went in for my six-week post-operation checkup, and during my physical exam my doctor noticed something on my right breast. I went to have a mammogram and found out in February that I had breast cancer.  

They found multiple tumors on my right side, so I had to go through six sessions of chemo — all while having a newborn. During this whole time, I knew that I didn’t have many classes left, so I was still trying to push through. One of the military representatives at Purdue Global was helping me through the process. I had to reenroll, and she made sure that I was able to get back in, so I’m thankful for her. The last two terms, I was open about my diagnosis with my professors. The professors were very understanding. There were certain weeks of chemo that I couldn’t even get out of bed, and they were willing to work with me. It wasn’t like everything was on me; I truly had the support of the school. They really wanted to make sure you know that you are graduating.  

I still need surgery and reconstructive surgery, and, mentally, I want to jump right into a career, but I still have to deal with these health issues. Even though I’m not working right now, I’ve been applying, and I am nervous about that with my surgery coming up, but the Career Center at Purdue Global has been helping me a lot. They’ve been sending me jobs and helping me go over my resume as I plan to go into human resources. I’m just a people person. I love helping people. That’s why I want to do something with human resources. I feel like human resources sets the culture for the business. They can create a positive atmosphere in the company. Whatever career I can get into to make a difference somewhere, that’s what I really want to do. In the future, I plan on going for my master’s after taking some time off. My cancer has taken a toll on me, but I am very grateful because I know there are people who have it 10 times worse.  

This journey has been a lot to deal with, but I had my goal set. I had to finish my bachelor’s degree to show my children that no matter what you go through, if something doesn’t go your way, or you have health issues or you have kids, don’t stop fighting. Don’t stop pushing for your goals. That’s just who I am as a person — I’m a fighter, and I’m not going to give up. 

Nina with her family.

Finally, I said to myself, ‘I’m too close. I have to finish.’

Nina Padilla BS business administration ’23 / Purdue Global

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