Posted on December 15, 2016
Born in Singapore and raised in Colorado Springs, Nate Low was an active kid growing up. “In the afternoons and weekends, you could always find me on a mountain,” he says, “biking, trail running, swimming, or playing soccer.”
Nate attended Colorado Springs Christian School and the University of Colorado at Boulder and received several Army and Navy ROTC scholarships, “but after careful consideration, I decided that I wanted to be a Marine.”
He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves Delayed Entry Program in 2003, became a Sergeant with Quebec Battery 5th Battalion 14th Marines based in Colorado and deployed to Ramadi, Iraq from March-October 2006.
“After my service, I thought my time in combat was done,” says Nate, “but little did I know that a few years later I would be fighting the most important battle of all.”
In 2014, Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had surgery to remove the tumor, but in 2015 he had to undergo additional surgery due to the cancer returning and spreading to his abdominal lymph nodes.
“I was unable to work for six weeks. When Teresa, my Semper Fi Fund case manager, reached out, it was a breath of fresh air. The Semper Fi Fund was able to cover a portion of my living expenses while I was out of work. They relieved my financial stress so I was able to focus on fully recovering.”
Nate points out that there are similarities between military service and dealing with cancer – and in how people like him deal with these difficult experiences.
“After a traumatic experience, whether it’s a deployment or cancer, there’s a space where you’re a bit lost and you feel like your life is in pieces,” he explains. “However, it’s within this space where there is opportunity to substantially grow, mature, improve and make positive changes in your life. I would say I’m now moving my life toward what I want it to be, rather than what others think or believe it should be.”
And of the lessons he’s learned from his cancer experience, Nate points out that “for me, cancer stands for the following:
“A—assertiveness: You have to be your own advocate. Ask people for what you need and ensure you are doing what you need to do for yourself. Whether that’s during treatment, recovery or life in general.
“N—never give up: Cancer can quickly wear you down, but your attitude and beliefs will determine the direction of where you’re headed.
“C—courage: Treatments and procedures can be scary. Having a little bit of courage to know that you’ll make it through the other side is huge.
“E—endurance: Cancer is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Take it one step at a time. Tests, appointments, surgery, recovery, they all take time. Focus on the next step in front of you and the rest of it will come with time.
“R—relationships: Rely on those relationships with people you know and trust and want to help you out. They are so crucial, and at the end of the day the only things that really matter in life are your health and relationships.”
Today, Nate is excited to feel healthy and strong again and is looking ahead to his future.
“My strength and endurance are slowly returning. I’m looking to go to nursing school, and when I look ahead I see myself as a healthy, strong, well-rounded person working as nurse practitioner in a warm, sunny climate with great people and relationships all around me.”
He also remains grateful to the Semper Fi Fund for the support he received.
“I would encourage any service member and their family members that are struggling to reach out to the Semper Fi Fund,” says Nate. “They provided me with incredible financial support during a time of need to help get me back on my feet.”
“It’s okay to ask for help, especially during a time of need,” he adds. “It does feel very strange and vulnerable to ask people for help, because our society tells us that if we present anything less than our perfect self and that if we have to ask help from others, that we are somehow weak, defective and not strong enough to handle it on our own.”
“The truth is that we have to rely on each other and our relationships to help get us through tough times.”