New ECU grad lost a lung – but never lost hope

Robert Pelley overcame lung cancer to graduate from East Carolina. (WNCT)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Nearly 5,000 graduates had nearly 5,000 different stories at East Carolina University Friday.

For some, the journey has been more challenging than most.

“I went through chemo, radiation and surgery. They removed my left lung,” said Robert Pelley, an ECU graduate.

Pelley was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer when he was only 16 years old.

Robert Pelley graduates from East Carolina (WECT)
Robert Pelley graduates from East Carolina (WECT)

“It was devastating to me. It was a very dark time for me,” added Michael Pelley, Robert’s father.

It forever changed Robert’s life, and his fathers.

“Someone’s got to fight for them and I’m going to fight for them,” added Robert. Michael then said, “I am incredibly proud, especially for what he went through and what he can relate to people and possibly just give them hope and faith. God had a purpose obviously.”

Robert will carry the lessons he learned at ECU into his job as a nurse in Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s intensive care unit. The lessons he learned from cancer, he’ll carry with him for a lifetime.

“My struggle with cancer taught me that you always gotta look up, look up at the sky. There’s always a bright day, always a new day,” said Robert.

He has been in remission for six and a half years, and will forever be a Pirate.

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