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KC boy makes cancer bucket list meaningful

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An 11-year-old Kansas City boy that had a rare form of cancer is being remembered as a fighter.

His mother, Kelly Tuder said, “Nathan had a very strong attitude about, I’m going to kick cancer’s butt.”

Nathan was only six years old when he received his cancer diagnosis -- Stage 4 High-Risk Neuroblastoma. Kelly remembers the doctors telling them that was a fast and tricky form of cancer.

“All we heard, in the beginning, is we can’t take our foot off the gas,” she said.

They immediately began Nathan’s treatment and over the course of a year, he underwent 20 radiation treatments.

“At his end of treatment scans in December of 2017 they found a new spot,” Kelly continued saying, “That was his first relapse. He relapsed five times.”

She said Nathan was angry, but he never lost his fighting spirit and always looked for moments to enjoy being a kid. One of those opportunities came in 2019 when Nathan was invited to the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, a basketball fundraiser to benefit pediatric cancer patients.

“When we met him at the Roundball in Lawrence, we just fell in love with Nathan instantly,” said Jaclyn Cazier, founder of Team Blake.

Team Blake is a local childhood cancer foundation named after Cazier’s son who lost his battle in 2017 to a rare blood cancer known as Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

She said, “Whenever Blake was sick, we had so much support from the community, strangers, just everybody. They wanted to help us out in any way, so we started our nonprofit to give back to those who are going through the same thing Blake went through, like Nathan.”

However, the foundation offered more than just financial support to the Tuder family.

“We started sending care packages to Nathan. He really loved superheroes and video games. He was always just so full of life and he never really talked about his cancer treatment,” Cazier added. “He just wanted to be a young boy and that’s what we wanted to do for him was help him be a young boy.”

As Nathan’s cancer grew, his focus started to shift.

Kelly said, “We had a video game that he had always been told no, you can’t play, you’re not old enough and Nathan was very good at I’ve got this card I can play that you can’t argue with and this one was ‘I’m never going to be old enough.’ That put everything really into reality for us.”

So, Nathan set out to create a bucket list. His parents asked if there were any trips he wanted to take, but Nathan had something else in mind.

“He said, well I want to get married and I want to graduate high school,” Kelly recalled.

Looking back on it now, she knows Nathan made a selfless decision in that moment.

“I think that the married and prom and graduation weren’t really his things. I think he knew those were things I wanted, that I was sad that I would miss.”

After those celebrations, Nathan took a turn for the worst. Kelly said from that point on they had hospice care several times a day, every day.

Nathan’s father, Scott Tuder, fought back tears remembering those final weeks.

He said, “Throughout the years of treatments and countless discussions with his oncologist, I kept hearing his odds of survival and I just never thought this would happen.”

On August 11, 2021, surrounded by his family, Nathan passed away. Left behind are hundreds of colored beads that represent his nearly five-year-long battle with cancer.

His father said those beads are a true testament to Nathan’s strength.

“I look at that and it’s almost like a soldier with all the medals on his dress uniform...because he went to war,” said Scott.

And, in the pain of losing her son, Kelly shared her own message.

“I want to say to people, hug your kids tighter. Tomorrow is not promised...and be grateful for what you have because it can be gone in a second.”

The Tuder family also wants to encourage anyone hearing Nathan’s story to donate to an organization, like Team Blake, in hopes of helping other families and providing more research for pediatric cancer patients.

If you’d like to give during this National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve shared several links below.

Kansas Organizations:

National Organizations:

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