Nathan was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and given 15 months to live. Unable to cope with his diagnosis, he started running. Now, more than 15 months later, he is stronger than ever. In this post, Nathan challenges our excuses and teaches us to remember the important things in life.
“I was what I thought a healthy 28 year old. I was one of the first hires in a startup called Bellhop and VP of operations. Everything looked good from the outside but I was working 60+ hours a week and we had a one year old my wife Elizabeth was basically raising by herself. I kept was telling her that if we can gut this out for a couple years, I’d have a team beneath me and we’d be able to catch our breath. That day never came.
After the first year at Bellhop, we had grown from 10 to over a hundred people so we started building a new office space. On our first day in our new office, I stood up and the world started spinning and I collapsed and woke up the next day intubated. I wrote down on a piece of paper “what happened” and they informed me that I had three grand maul seizures the nurse was like you have a baseball sized mass in your brain. It takes a while to get a diagnosis and we were all waiting on pins and needles for the doc to call. We were all hoping for a grade 3 but it was a grade 4 Glioblastoma. The doctor gave me a life expectancy of 15 months.
After my diagnosis, a friend of mine told me about a marathon and half marathon and I was like yeah, i’ll do it. Once I started running, I remembered why I didn’t run long distances. There’s so much pain in a prolonged period of time. I used it as a metaphor, I like my pain to come at once in a short period — kind of God’s way of telling me I was going to be in pain for a long period of time. I wanted to prove to myself I could handle pain in a long period of time because that was coming. Long story short, I had knee trouble with my IT band through the Chattanooga marathon. A friend recommended that I read “Born To Run”. At first, I was like how is this going to help my knee problem. I read it anyway and it changed my views on running long distance and it led me to other YouTube videos and books that focused on form. I tried to make my form more efficient, I got the vibram five fingers and I slowly started working up my mileage. I got to the point when I didn’t need my orthotic and the best part about it was that I was injury free. I learned how to run correctly.
I started to feel better and I was running longer and longer distances. Born To Run was a book that introduced me to ultra-marathons. Initially, I was like I thought those guys were crazy and that I could never do that. But I started to run on trails and I fell in love with them. I ran my first trail race shortly after the Chattanooga trail race and did ok, I ran a few 10ks, 15ks here and there, and finished my first 50k a couple weekends ago and finished 11th out of 300+ people. I’m coming to SF for The North Face endurance challenge and doing the 50 miler. It seems like the longer distance I run, the better I feel. It may have been the endorphin high but the symptoms I was going through because of the medicine I take dampened.
Honestly what you would think this is the biggest curse has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I saw how misplaced my priorities were- I was neglecting my faith and my family and work was my the first priority. I just want to get my voice out there to not place so much emphasis on work because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I wrote a book for my son Jack called “Dear Jack” to explain the life lessons I learned through my battle with brain cancer. It doesn’t matter what he does all work has dignity. The doctors couldn’t have done it without the nurses who couldn’t have done it without the janitors. I want to let him know that whatever he ends up doing to not let the worldly stigma dictate what he does. As you look back at your life, it sounds cliche, but you’re not thinking about time spent in the office, you’re thinking about things that matter, like family. I don’t want him to get wrapped up in ambition and worldly success that you lose sight of what is real. Everyone goes through pain and suffering and it’s just how you look at it that defines you.”
It has been more than 15 months since his diagnosis and today he races The North Face 50 in San Francisco.
Nathan’s book “Dear Jack” available for purchase on Amazon.
You can follow him at http://brainhops.blogspot.com.
Please consider donating to help him beat his brain cancer at https://www.youcaring.com/nathan-sexton-369096.