When I was first introduced to Christian Nataline, we had three notable things in common: lung cancer, an ALK mutation and the fact that Dr. Alice Shaw was our oncologist.
Chris immediately reminded me of my oldest son, August. It was also obvious that he possessed a scrappiness not unlike my own. Because of our age difference, I felt protective of Chris, but understood that we were compatriots; fellow travelers in that strange place called cancer.
In the seven years that we have been friends, Chris and I have talked about almost everything under the sun. I have learned a lot both about and from Chris, and it has been my immense pleasure to see this young man grow from someone who was angry and afraid into someone so very self aware and strong.
Chris has hit a rough patch, with improvement in his lungs but additional mets to bone and brain. And yet he’s meeting this fresh challenge with aplomb and formidable grace. This morning he sent a message out on Facebook and I was struck by his mention of both privilege as well as noting the contribution that previous cancer patients have made. It touched me immensely and I asked him if I could share.
Good morning everyone.
I just wanted to thank everyone for praying, following and supporting me over the the last 7 1/2 years.
I love my life. Sure I’d love to be cured but other than the obvious my family and friends and our earth are my reason to fight. There are too many of you who I care about to lay down my sword and give in. I’m fighting this disease for myself and my family and for the ones who have or will be diagnosed with cancer in the future.
I feel obligated and privileged to be one of the lucky patients who get the opportunity to be part of clinical trials that will eventually lead to a cure for myself and to save you or your loved ones but I couldn’t do this one on my own.
My doctor Alice Shaw from MGH is the leading Lung Cancer specialist in the world and she’s been there for me since day one. She calls me on Saturdays and weeknights after 14 hour days and to have her in my life has been a godsend. She has been so supportive and hopeful even when the waters are dark and the waves roll in. She’s the buoy in the open sea that keeps me from drowning alongside Melissa Johnson in Nashville at Tennessee Oncology–which has more trials available than any other state in the country.
And I can’t forget my team in Orlando at ORMC including Jennifer Tseng and Dr. Rama Krishna–my oncologist and radiologist in Florida who keep me stable and make sure the procedures are keeping me healthy and upright while I wait for the next life-saving medicines. It takes an army. The scientists all over the world are the reason I’m doing as well as I am today with all of their extremely difficult occupations in a race against time and road blocks. I’ve been getting medicine that the majority of people in the world don’t have access to so saying I’m grateful for them is an understatement.
Angel Flight has been a pivotal tool in my survival. Without them I wouldn’t be here and the fundraisers have saved me from losing everything multiple times so I owe my life to all of you. My family hasn’t given up on me even though I’ve said and done things out of fear and anger but it’s only because the thought of leaving this world sets my insides on fire. I don’t have enough skin on my back to return the favor to the hundreds of people who have reached out to save my life BUT THANK YOU for taking interest and not turning away from my struggles. I know it’s depressing at times and scary and overwhelming but I’m an open book. It’s been empowering to be in a position to pave a path for those who need life-saving medicine.
Rest in peace to the people who we have lost over the last century from cancer. They have opened many doors for myself and everyone who is fighting today. They haven’t passed away in vain. They’ve led the charge just like those who were drafted in wars over the years. We can’t run away from cancer. We have no choice but to fight with every breath for the sake of our lives and for everyone on this planet so we can return to our families and grow old with them. There is no retirement in this field until the cure is found but it’s coming. I promise you that.