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​Nate's love of the PA

Friday 30 July 2021

Nathan Fleming was already an avid supporter of the PA Research Foundation before needing the help of the PA Hospital (PAH) himself after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 2018.

A lover of ducks, as evidenced by a tattoo of one on his right arm and having lost his father to Oesophageal cancer, Nathan began supporting the PA Research Foundation in 2017 inspired by the Foundation's record in funding cancer research.

Nathan Fleming

With the PA Research Foundation duck mascot championing the slogan "Fight Cancer", Nathan spoke with his manager at Whitsundays business Ocean Rafting about supporting the PA Research Foundation through selling the popular duck merchandise.

Understanding the cause of cancer research was close to their employee's heart, Ocean Rafting got right behind the idea selling more than just duck merchandise, but displaying donation tins, and being a part of the adopt a duck online fundraising campaign. They even ordered their very own large duck to proudly display in their office. Nathan said the merchandise soon became popular among both the tourists and locals.

"People were loving it, the ducks were flying out the door, which was really great to see," he said.

However, as he went about his daily life and raised funds for the Foundation in 2018, Nathan had been putting up with agonising pain in his right leg for months. He saw his GP three times but was unfortunately told it was likely a knot in his muscles from working too hard, with no further investigations undertaken into his symptoms.

"I was in screaming pain, 2-3 hours a night. It was like someone had a knife in my leg and was twisting it," he said.

It was only when Nathan later dislocated his shoulder and saw a physio, that his feelings about the pain in his leg were validated. After briefly examining Nathan's leg, the physio recommended he immediately have an ultrasound which revealed a shocking difference between his right and left femur bone.

"The bone was supposed to look like a smooth surface, but it looked like someone had got a chisel and hacked chunks out of my bone," Nathan said.

The sonographer requested an urgent X-ray which was followed by an MRI and bone biopsy, which confirmed Nate's diagnosis - Osteosarcoma in his right femur.

Nathan's diagnosis led to his referral to the PA Hospital Orthopaedics Department, the only one of its kind in Queensland equipped to treat his rare condition and the very hospital he was already a proud supporter of.

As his cancer was active, Nathan's treatment which included major surgery began just five days after his diagnosis. His friends and family rallied around him in his journey to conquer cancer, hosting fundraising events all over Queensland. In September of that year Nathan's community including rival tourism operators in the Whitsundays hosted a surprise fundraiser to help with the costs of his surgery and recovery. The event called Nate's Night raised over $20,000, and combined with efforts from friends and family, more than $50,000 has been raised to help him in his greatest time of need.

""I've been so overwhelmed by the support – people have even said to me, 'if you need a house, a car, somewhere to stay, anything at all, just let me know.' It's been unbelievable," Nathan said.

Nathan remains thankful for the kindness and generosity of Ocean Rafting owners Jan and Pete Claxton, who continued paying Nathan's wages in the early stages of his chemotherapy treatment and held his job until he returned to work in June of 2019.

Nathan is also full of gratitude to his treatment team at the PAH for the care given to the man affectionately known as 'Mr Whitsundays' in his local community.

"To nurse Kate Mahon who was a great support to me during my treatment and to everyone that was part of my treatment team at PA, I can't thank you enough," he said.

Nathan's story is the perfect example of the PAH's impact on people from all over Queensland, and his treatment and care has made him an even bigger supporter of PA Research Foundation, knowing the funds he raises go to help people just like him.

You can help support patients just like Nathan to continue to receive the amazing care the PAH is renowned for by donating here.