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LUNG FORCE Heroes

Elaine N.

Six years later, I am still finding it hard to put into words the affect that lung cancer has had on my family. As I write this, tears are streaming down face, because I wish for no person to ever have to go through what my family and I endured. My father, Philip Frederick Natoli, also known as Doc by his Taxi buddies, was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer when I was in the 8th grade. At the time, I was very unfamiliar with the disease, not understanding the depths of what could happen or how long I would have with my father. Our family quickly realized that this disease was not going to be easy. My father’s tumors were inoperable, requiring chemotherapy and Gamma Knife Radiation. For this, my father would have to commute to Charleston for treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina. With Charleston being roughly two hours away from our home in Hilton Head, the commute was not only challenging for my working mother and father, but for my two brothers, Max and Charlie, and my sister, Emily, who at the time, were all under eighteen years old.

Through the years battling this disease, my father’s cancer would go through stages of being stagnant to active. First, the cancer spread from his lungs to his spine, and he underwent spinal surgery. From there, his cancer spread to his brain which is when he underwent brain surgery. Through all of this, he tried his best not to miss anything for us. He was always in the stands cheering us on at our sports games, posing for all the not so glamorous prom photos, and was even there to walk me across the field for Homecoming. Our dad was a fighter! As time passed and the tumors continued to spread, we heard the saying, “prepare yourselves,” time and time again. The summer before I left for college, my father was put under Hospice care after his cancer had spread to his fluids. Leaving for school, I knew it was probably the last time I would see my father the way he was, an amazing chef, an honest friend (to anyone who would go grocery shopping with him), and a true New Yorker, with an attitude and persistence like no other.

We said our goodbyes on the morning of October 28, 2012. We think he held on to watch my older sister, Emily, win Outstanding Senior at Vanderbilt University. He knew he could not miss that! I discovered the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE/Run Walk on the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing. That year the Walk fell right on his birthday, November 8 (Coincidence, I think not!). After seeing the hundreds of people in turquoise at the event, I quickly realized that I was not the only one who had lost a loved one to lung cancer. Today, six years after my father’s passing, I am honored to be one of the forces behind the LUNG FORCE initiative. I advocate for lung cancer awareness in honor of my father and for all the remarkable STRONG men and women affected by lung diseases today.

First published: November 26, 2018

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