“ If you are dealing with cancer -- DON’T do it alone! It is very easy to close yourself off to the rest of the world but lean on your friends, organizations like mAss Kickers and First Descents.
Nathan Post is someone who knows how to “Kick Some Serious mAss!” Nate has a MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business with an emphasis on international business and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is the Chief Operations Officer at an engineering firm that builds next-generation infrared technology for the Department of Defense. In his down time, he keeps himself busy with a slew of adventure sports, competing in triathlons, and volunteering with First Descents and Give Kids the World. We connected with him through the First Descents Alumni Advisory Board. We were lucky to catch him in some down time and ask him a few questions.
mK: Thanks for doing this Nate! What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
NP: About 4AM on St. Patricks Day 2009 my mom found me throwing up a bunch of blood leading to the ever exciting trip to the ER. At 9AM I was being moved the oncology floor with an “Advanced Stage 4, we have no idea what to do but this kid is screwed” diagnosis. Very long story short, I spent the majority of the next 18 months in the hospital riding a wild roller coaster. The tumors were so developed that my CT scan looked liked someone “threw up cancer” all over my chest and abdomen. They had already eaten large holes in my intestines and were embedded in the tissue fibers meaning there was no way to resect any of it.
As part of the process, I ended up tearing a large hole in my aorta (which I’m told is sort of problem)…. on two separate occasions. Afterwards, the doctors told me the odds of surviving one of these bleed is about equivalent to winning the Powerball lottery 3 days in a row (so basically zero percent). On the second ‘episode’ I ended up losing 99 units of blood in less than twelve hours and it took over 100 medical people to keep me alive. Apparently the machine couldn’t pump new blood into me fast enough so nurses were having to manually squeeze blood bags to in crease the rate. I like to say I had my oil changed 9 times in a row (because average humans have 10 to 12 pints (units) of blood).
After getting the cancer and bleeding to death business under control I was still having major issues with blood infections…. turned out one of the holes in my gut was laying on top of one of the holes in my aorta… weird right?
After countless “we don’t know what to do but lets try…” conversations,I ended up in Houston they did a full abdominal aortic resection— first time in medical history that has been done – so I thought that was pretty cool. I’m happy to say that it worked and I’m now 4 years out of having a synthetic aorta placed… that’s wild to think about!
mK: Whoa…It’s been a crazy ride for you! How did you get started in Cancer Advocacy? What do you do?
NP: As I got healthier I finally made it to a First Descents program and was hooked. I finally found a group of people who really ‘got it.’ Who I didn’t have to explain the physical and emotional scars that inevitably come with cancer… basically a bunch of incredible people that are not just excited about being alive but TRULY LIVING!.
I feel really fortunate to be able to help spread the word about FD at different events over the past year. A more recent initiative that I’ve gotten involved with is FD Tributaries. FD badass Julie Kinamore is heading this program that brings FD alumni and other young adults with cancer together on a more regular basis. I organize the events for Florida which has been a blast and we’re only getting started! So far we’ve taken a group wakeboarding and hosted a ‘wine and painting’ party. Over the next few months we will do a bioluminescence kayaking tour and snorkel with manatees. It is really fun to help build a local community of cancer badasses!
mK: Let’s change the name from FD Tributaries to “FD BAs” (FD Bad-Asses) j/k… hee hee. How did you get the nickname “Scooter”?
NP: When Kristy (my now fiancee) and I moved to Florida (2 days after being declared medically stable)… we didn’t have any money or a car so we bought a $1,000 one-seater honda metropolitan (49cc)…. max speed of 35 mph on a downhill…. We would both somehow manage to fit on there and looked a whole lot like Dumb and Dumber (… I’m 6’3″ so my knees were way out in front of the handle bars). Anyway — we did that for about 4 months until I bought a scooter so we became a hardcore biker gang. I love scooters because I associate being able to ride one with being healthy
mK: HAHAHA! Mario Cart Rocks! Seriously though, you’ve been through a lot… what motivates you?
NP: 1. Doing things that scare me. I am constantly looking for ways to challenge myself physically and emotionally. This ranges from public speaking to skydiving (I’m finishing my certification now!).
2. People that are positive and passionate about what they spend their time doing (professionally and for recreation). Whether they are starting a company, getting into a new hobby or simply improving the world around them in any capacity – I admire people that live with intention and purpose.
mK: Skydiving! Cool! Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
NP: My family and Kristy (my now fiancee). They dropped their lives and worked as a unit to get me healthy. I never spent a single night at the hospital by myself. My mom was the medical guard dog, making sure all the doctors were doing what they were supposed to and interior decorator for the hospital room. My dad brought food almost every day to feed all my nurses and spent many nights sleeping in a recliner – which ended up saving my life because he was there at 5AM in the ICU when I started bleeding out. My brother and sister were constantly there bringing much needed laughter to the floor. And Kristy, who lived in New York at the time, left her job and life so she could be with us.
mK: Sounds like “Team Nate” is pretty cool! BTW… Congrats on the engagement! What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
NP: Laugh – Roller coasters – I’ve never gotten off one without laughing. Living in Orlando, I will often go to a theme park and ride one roller coaster then leave… just to get my laughing fix in.
Cry — needles… no joke. I turn into a big baby every time they start poking me.
Angry – hands down, negativity (followed closely by complacency). I understand life is hard – and people have trouble handling tough situations but constantly finding something to complain about does nothing to better your situation or the world around you. About two weeks after I first ended up in the hospital with cancer and the initial shock of a Stage 4 diagnosis… I met this this older guy dying from cancer and he summed it up perfectly: if we all got together and threw our problems in a pile, you would probably take yours back.
mK: These experiences put A LOT in perspective! What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
NP: … that’s a tough question…. and my answer probably would change if you asked again. When I was in college, I had piled a ton on my plate and realized I was stressed out most of the time — to the point where I couldn’t relax. Deciding that wasn’t healthy I took 6 months off and moved to Maui to be a poolside cocktail server at the Westin. Besides making way too much money serving over-priced drinks, I discovered my love for surfing and free diving, got scuba certified and hitch-hiked all over the island including diving for lobsters cooked at camp sites next to the rainforest. If I hadn’t put a 6 month deadline on that trip I probably would still live there.
mK: Cool. What do you think is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
NP: Dealing with getting your life back on track. For a long time after getting physically healthy I was very lost and depressed. Whether you like it or not, cancer changes you — and trying to re-find that pre-cancer person I knew was very difficult.
Admitting I was depressed, stuck and needed help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I thought it was an admittance of failure at the time but that help was crucial in getting my life back.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
NP: French fries dipped in vanilla ice cream… if you haven’t tried it prepare to have your mind blown.
mK: HAHAHA! Does dipping fries in a Frosty count? What animal best describes your personality and why?
NP: Probably a labrador. I have a ton of energy, run a lot and love to make people smile.
mK: What are you up to now?
NP: Professionally I run an engineering company that builds really cool, next-gen toys (primarily) for the military — think Q’s lab from the James Bond movies just with a group of 25 – 35 year olds… we have a lot of fun.
The rest of the time I spend traveling around Florida, surfing, and helping out at FD and Give Kids the World (another great organization that coordinates and has a resort for Make a Wish families who are on their trip to Disney World.).
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
NP: Couple of things:
1. It’s okay to admit that having cancer sucks. You hurt, your body does things you hate and can consume your life. You don’t have to pretend its all flowers and bunny rabbits. A lot of people will ask “how are you feeling” mostly because they don’t know what else to say…. but saying you ‘feel like shit’ is actually healthier than pretending you are okay.
2. Educate yourself! You are as much a part of your medical team as your doctors. Educate yourself about your cancer, the symptoms, treatments etc., so you can make informed decisions and help dictate your outcome.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
NP: In college I did an internship at Disney World (as a housekeeper)… ‘you like mint for pillow?’
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
NP: If you are dealing with cancer — DON’T do it alone! It is very easy to close yourself off to the rest of the world but lean on your friends, organizations like mAss Kickers and First Descents.
Always remember, you can’t always control your situation BUT you can choose how you want to react to it.
Nathan Post: Mouseketeer, military “toy” maker, ice cream- french fry pioneer, tropical bartender, roller coaster daredevil, needle cry-baby, skydiver, First Descents Ambassador, and living example of life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis! Check out First Descents if you haven’t yet!