Niagara Gazette — Cancer doesn’t care about numbers. Not percentages or ages, algebra or statistics. It just rears its head and dares the human race to do something about it. Just ask Niagara-Wheatfield High School junior Nathan Brundage how little numbers matter to the disease.
The 17-year-old spent much of the past two years working towards joining Lewiston No. 2 Fire Co. on Saunders Settlement Road. The Town of Niagara family has a deep connection to the firefighters in the group and Nathan believed he would make a fantastic emergency medical technician and volunteer flame battler as soon as he turned 18.
But this past December, Nate was struck in the back of the head during a game of dodgeball during gym class. What happened next could only be described as life altering. Because a few short weeks later, he was undergoing surgery to remove an aggressive form of brain cancer that threatened his life and, even in the best of circumstances, put his life’s passion well out of reach.
“The doctors thought he’d be paralyzed,” Angela Price, Nathan’s mother, said. “There was still a chance he could die. They thought he’d come out of the surgery with the same symptoms he had going in, at best.”
Symptoms that hit Nathan after the ball strike progressed quickly from headaches to confusion and eventually numbness on one side of his body. He started taking pain killers to get through the struggles, which stuck his mother, who wasn’t initially worried, as odd.
Everyone’s diagnosis centered on him suffering a concussion, she said of the first week after the dodgeball incident. It was a relatively familiar scenario for him, coming off a football injury suffered last year, from which he successfully recovered.
But this time, he didn’t recover. As the numbness set in and Nathan began dragging his foot and carrying his arm limp at his side, his speech became slurred. Some members of the Lewiston No. 2 Fire Co., who’ve been a second family to Nathan since he joined its ranks, recommended a trip to Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, just as a precaution.