VINTON — This year has been a reminder for many that life is unpredictable and precious.
Those two words describe the future for Nathan Chandler after the married father of four found out last week he has Stage 4 Carcinoma of the unknown, a “rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the body but the place the cancer began is not known.” Such a diagnosis comes with a life expectancy of two years.
“Still to this day, I don’t feel (the diagnosis) is correct,” the 34-year-old Chandler said. “I feel pretty healthy right now, have very minimal pain and am able to function.”
The process to find out what was wrong with the Benton County Speedway racer started when a lump was discovered about six months ago on his sternum. That led to appointments with three different cancer specialists who returned their opinion Aug. 12.
“I understand that it could spread uncontrollably once I actually start my radiation and chemo,” Chandler said. “I’m not going to feel how I feel now. We were joking with the doctors that they must have the wrong chart, because my blood work is still perfect. I’m still trying to work and do normal life functions, but something inside of me is not compatible.”
Chandler has been staying strong with support from his wife, BJ, and his children — Tallan, 10; Aubree, 8; Tucker, 6; and Tennan, 2.
The Norway resident and co-owner of AutoCrafters in Atkins will have 10 daily radiation sessions beginning next week, followed by chemotherapy.
“I’m trying to stay positive and not get stressed out,” Chandler said. “It’s probably the hardest and the most important, to stay mentally focused on fighting, doing the things I need to get the results we need so we can go forward.”
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The forward Chandler is hoping to experience is as much time as possible with his family while finishing up a blue 1969 Chevelle SS “project car” he received after his father Mervin’s death.
“I’m trying to get this to a controlled state so that we can have many more years to spend time as a family,” Chandler said. “Get to enjoy life as long as I can.”
The next goal for Chandler is visiting the Mayo Clinic after completing radiation and a few trials of chemo to “see how my body reacted and see if it shrank the cells.”
That will help decide the next step.
In the meantime, Chandler is trying to balance fighting versus acceptance.
“That is still something I’m trying to figure out,” Chandler said. “It’s kind of just been day-by-day and the last few weeks have come up on us very fast. As the treatment starts, if we can see it shrinking and get a positive result it will give us something to look forward to as opposed to the negativity of the rareness of the cancer.”
Chandler’s brothers Dallas and Brad, among fellow drivers, are trying to assist Nathan’s journey. They will be collecting donations at Benton County Speedway on Sunday. Gates open at 4 p.m., hot laps are at 6 and racing will follow.
“It’s a battle and we’re going to fight it and make it last as long as I can,” Chandler said. “I’m not giving up.”