Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 18, 1999

It's hard to believe it would have been ten years since that wonderful day. I miss Nate more and more with each passing hour.

Morgan and Landon are doing so great. They are what keeps me going.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas. Don't take for granted those closest to you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nate's Obituary

Nathaniel R. “NateTrask, 33 of Dearborn, died at home Sunday, August 30, 2009 after a courageous fight with melanoma cancer. He was born to Robert and Margaret Trask on February 22, 1976 in Newburyport, MA. On Dec. 18, 1999, Nate married Deborah R. Cremer in Willow Creek Church, Barrington, IL.

Nate attended the McCook, Nebraska schools, and graduated from McCook High School in 1994 where he lettered in basketball and helped lead his team to the Nebraska State Basketball Tournament two consecutive years. Nate received his BS degree from Wheaton College, a degree in mechanical engineering from Illinois Instutute of Technology, and a Master's from University of Michigan. He worked as a research engineer for Ford Motor Co. for nearly 10 years. While there, Nate and his fellow engineers were recognized for receiving several patents in advanced engine technologies.

Nate was a passionate member of the Genesis Church in Royal Oak. He was a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. As a member of the DCSCC and AROC car clubs, he enjoyed racing his 1994 Mazda Miata in autocross races and was a top performer in his class. Along with some of his fellow engineers, Nate was the drummer in the “Inline5” band. He played recreational softball and participated in several area triathlons and road races.

Most of all, he loved being with his wife, Deb, and their two children, Morgan and Landon. As a family, they enjoyed playing video games, reading stories, singing songs, and drawing pictures. He was a generous, kind, and caring person. In the midst of his illness, Nate shared his faith through his blog, “Nate’s Road to Recovery.”

Nate is survived by his wife, Deborah Trask; his two children, Morgan and Landon Trask; his parents, The Rev. Robert and Margaret Trask of Fort Gratiot, MI; his grandmother, Hazel Trask of Annapolis, MD; his grandparents, Charles and Margaret Schoenherr of Wheaton, IL; his siblings, Margaret “Meg” Trask of Chicago, IL, Charles (Melissa) Trask of Charlotte, NC, Emily Trask of Fort Gratiot, and Stephen Trask of Wheaton, IL; his father-in-law, Cal Cremer of Muskegon, MI; his mother-in-law, Marge (Jim) Bogdalek of Naperville, IL; and two brothers-in-law, John (Sally) and Ben (Nancy) Cremer. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Robert P. Trask Jr. of

Visitation will be on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in L.J. Griffin Funeral Home, 7707 Middlebelt Rd., Westland, MI. The funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday in Christ Episcopal Church, 120 N. Military, Dearborn preceded by one hour of visitation. Burial will follow in Parkview Cemetery in Livonia.

Contributions may be made in Nate’s memory to Genesis Church or Melanoma Research Foundation. To send condolences, please visit

Monday, August 31, 2009


This afternoon arrangements were made for Nate's visitation and funeral service. The visitation will take place at L.J Griffin Funeral Home in Westland, 7707 Middlebelt Rd. (at Ann Arbor Trail)
Thursday 6-9 p.m.
Friday 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.
The funeral service will be at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, 120 N. Military (at Cherry Hill). There will be one hour of visitation from 10-11 a.m. with the service starting at 11 a.m.

Flowers may be sent to the funeral home. Memorial gifts can be made to Genesis Church, 309 N. Main St., Royal Oak, MI 48067 or Melanoma Research Foundation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nate is at Peace

Sunday evening at 9:45, God called one of his precious children Nathaniel Robert Trask.

By God's grace Nate did not feel any pain the last few days and peacefully returned to his Creator.

Nate was, and will continue to be, an inspiration to more people than he ever knew on earth. Touching the lives of family, friends, communities, children, and strangers, he showed us what true faith looks like. No matter the circumstance God is with us and loves us.

Nate will be greatly missed, but his spirit, courage, faith, laughter, joy, wisdom, and love will remain with us forever.

Thank you to all who have lifted Nate and this family in prayer.

Charley and Bob Trask

Monday, August 24, 2009

August Update

In the past few weeks Nate's physical condition has degenerated since the last blog. Due to tumor growth in his abdomen area, an activity like sitting is very difficult. While standing and walking are no longer possible. It is most comfortable now to lay on his back. At this point all focus is on comfort.

Hospice has become more involved in the process to provide medication before the symptoms develop. All nurses continue to work together and demonstrate great compassion by ensuring Nate there is a comfort for any discomfort. Nate has surely won the hearts of his nurses by his good spirits and sense of humor regardless of his circumstance.

Nate's doctors have also been very proactive with medication, giving Nate a variety of options. Today the nurses started a IV line in Nate's arm so Deb can push two different types of pain medication to provide additional pain relief and help with sleeping.

Nate and Deb have had a real sense of peace in this stage of their journey, and are totally relying on the grace of God to get them through each day.

Charley Trask

Monday, July 27, 2009


It has been quite some time since I last updated my blog. Time seems to move quickly even when you are restricted by a terminal illness in what you can do and where you can go.

Shortly after Father's day, I was admitted back to Karmanos with severe abdominal pain and nausea which mysteriously resolved itself after a couple days in the hospital. After I returned home, my pain control doctor finally found the right combination of pain medication for handling my abdomen pain, which was a great relief. Although my level of pain had decreased, I was having a more difficult time with mobility and sitting/standing. Trips to the clinic were becoming more difficult each time, draining my energy for up to 24 hours afterward.

I met with my clinical trial oncologist to discuss options for future treatment and we were informed that, due to my reduced physical capabilities, I would not be eligible for additional phase I treatment at this time. Deb and I had anticipated this beforehand and had agreed that it was time for me think more about handling the side effects of my cancer rather than treating it systemically. As you can imagine, this was not a decision that we took lightly, but we came to the conclusion that hospice care made the most sense for me.

I didn't know much about hospice before a representative from a local provider met with Deb and me in my home. Hospice essentially takes over my medical care (with a few rare exceptions). I have a doctor, physicians assistant, nurse, and social worker assigned to me. Thus far they have been very responsive to my medical and other needs. Fortunately I was able to keep my wonderful pain team from Karmanos who has been so proactive in addressing my pain. Hospice has provided me medical equipment such as an adjustable hospital bed and wheelchair that make life more comfortable for me.

I haven't had a re-occurrence of the headaches that led to my brain surgery a couple months ago. Hospice has proactively put me back on steroids (which I was on during my stay in Karmanos before and after surgery) to reduce the chance that the headaches will return. I haven't had a MRI since my surgery, so we don't know if the tumor above my left eye has increased in size. We had originally planned to do radiation on this site, but since I have gone on hospice this is no longer in the plan. In doesn't really matter since radiation will not treat my disease systemically. One of the positive effects of the steroids has been an increase in my appetite. This has been nice, especially after dealing with the recent bouts of nausea.

Deb and the kids are handling this whole situation so well; they amaze me every day. Morgan and Landon obviously don't understand my illness but, like so many of you out there, they pray for "daddy to get better." Deb and I are so thankful for all of the cards, letters, emails, etc. that have been such an encouragement to both of us. We are thankful for each and every day we have together.

God Bless,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

It has been a few weeks since I returned home from the hospital and it feels like I may be slowly improving. Unfortunately I had caught another viral infection (most likely in the hospital) that caused fevers and resulted in liver and chest pain for about a 8 day period. Once the fever subsided the pain became more manageable. The epidural isn't providing the relief that I had hoped for. Although the pain near my sternum is now controlled, I have pain along my spine that makes walking more than a few minutes incredible hard. My doctors are adjusting my epidural medication and dosage to give me more relief. Please pray that they will find a combination for me that is effective. Thankfully my headaches have subsided and I haven't noticed any pressure above my left eye (where my other brain tumor is located). The next MRI is scheduled after the July 4th holiday.

I've had a great Father's Day and hope all the other dads out there had the same. Deb and the kids surprised me with a 14 week old kitten who spent most of the day cuddling with me on the couch.

My mom gave me the same cane that Dr. House uses on the popular Fox show, to make walking (in style!) a bit easier.

It was also great to have my brothers here on Father's Day. Deb and I had a number of house projects that needed to be done and they graciously offered to do them for us.

Thankful for every day,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Up and Down Week

After returning home on Saturday I felt comfortable until the early morning on Monday. I then experienced a multiple day fever (with flu like symptoms) that was eerily similar to one I had after my first pain blocker surgery a few months previous. Fortunately most of the swelling from my brain surgery had subsided by Tuesday night so my headaches where mostly gone. The fever broke by Wednesday, but by late evening I started getting a sharp pain in my abdomen, just to left of the sternum. By Thursday noontime I could no longer control this pain with my medication so I had to be re-admitted to Karmanos for another pain block procedure called a tunnel epidural.

Aside from the nerve block surgeries I've had up to now, most of my home pain control has been through oral medication and pain "patches" that stick to my skin. These are effective for most forms of pain but deliver the medication to my entire body, instead of just the areas where I need it. At the hospital they usually administer my pain medication through an IV, which quickly delivers it through the whole body via my bloodstream. An issue arises when you need a lot of pain relief in one part of your body the oral and IV methods deliver too much pain medication to your brain, which can make you loopy/sleep or even nauseous.

The tunneled epidural procedure places a semi-permanent catheter tube directly in the spinal cord fluid near the center of pain. Pain medication is administered through the catheter and only affects the spinal nerves to about 4 inches from the entry point. The procedure went flawless on Friday morning and had given me immediate relief after waking from surgery. I stayed Friday night at Karmanos just to make sure that things were okay before I returned home. Everything seems to be fine with my abdomen pain control and headaches so it looks like I'll be heading back home as soon as I get my "at-home" epidural pump (connects to the catheter tube to administer the pain medication). I've been told that this should reduce or completely eliminate the oral/patch pain medication I've been taking up to now, which will be great.

I've become cautiously optimistic when returning home from the hospital; you can imagine my disappointment having to return this week after going through the whole neurosurgery experience just days previous. Please pray that the tunneled epidural stays effective as I return home and that there are no complications (i.e. headaches/swelling/tumor regrowth) during the recovery from brain surgery.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back at Home

I was discharged from Karmanos yesterday at 2pm and am now resting/recovering in the comfort of our home. Thankfully I was able to get some good sleep last night and I've had a great appetite. Deb, my brothers Chuck and Steve, my sister Meg, and I enjoyed Chinese take-out from a favorite restaurant of mine. I don't think I could have handled any more hospital food trays.

The twins greeted me with hugs and kisses when we pulled into the driveway, which was just amazing. Landon held my hand while walking me up to the front door. They both thought that my head dressing was hilarious (think massive white turban). I showed them the stitches on my head and Landon exclaimed "why does your head look like a baseball?" Funny, but true (I'll put some photos up later). I have swelling around the incision site which should go away within a week. The stitches will come out on June 9th.

The follow up MRI showed the surgery site to been clean of cancer. My surgeon couldn't see any evidence of disease in the scans. There is a small spot above my left eye (<0.5cm) that the radiation team will look at but it will not require a surgical procedure. It would be a few weeks before any radiation treatment occurs (if it is necessary at all).

I feel blessed that the surgery went well and the recovery has been better than I expected. Hopefully this will give me relief over the next weeks/months to enjoy life as full as I can.

Thanks again to everyone for your love and support.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

When you hear of someone having brain surgery you would think because of the seriousness of it, recovery would take a long time, but we are finding that is not the case. Nate was in the ICU for the first night after the surgery and woke up hungry and wanting to watch SportsCenter. By 4 in the afternoon he was transferred back to Karmanos and we were told we would most likely be sent home in the next 24 hours! We were shocked to hear this and excited at the same time. A doctor just came in and took off Nate's head bandage, which revealed a scar starting at the front of his ear, goes up the side of his head, then curves back down forming a question mark shape. Nate is feeling well and hopes to return home today. Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surgery Complete

Nate's surgery was completed by about 4pm. The doctors said it went as expected and they removed a large portion of the tumor. Nate is going to spend the night in the ICU here at Detroit Receiving and will most likely complete his recovery on the 5th floor of Karmanos where we have spent the last 6 days. When they took me back to see him he was awake and breathing on his own. His head is wrapped with a thick white bandage that covers his ears so I have to speak loudly for him to hear me. He was able to speak shortly after coming out of surgery, but it took a lot of effort. He feels pressure where the surgery was performed, but no pain other than a sore and swollen throat left from the ventilator tube.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We have elected to do surgery

To all of my dear friends supporting us in their thoughts and prayers-

After weighing all of the pros and cons of each of my options regarding treatment of the brain metastasis discovered last weekend, we have elected to have the tumor surgically removed. We had hoped to have this procedure done by now, but due to the holiday weekend we were not able to schedule this until Thursday (28-May) at 8am. Please ask the Lord to guide the surgeon's hands in this delicate procedure that in total will last between 4 and 6 hours. Deb will take the reigns of updating everyone, hopefully just until I have regained the strength to share after my recovery.

We have received such over-whelming support from so many friends and family to help us navigate this difficult time. I firmly believe that prayers lifted for wisdom, grace, mercy, and hope have guided Deb and I to this decision. Of course there are very dangerous risks associated with this surgery, but we trust in God's love and I have comfort knowing that on the other side of this procedure I'll either see those I hold near and dear here on earth or I'll be in Christ's kingdom re-united with the Lord and loved ones who have gone before me.

I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your caring support. I have trouble finding adequate words to explain how many of your blog comments and personal emails have lifted our spirits.

In His Love,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The cancer has metasticised to my brain

Over the past week Nate has had headaches during sleeping hours that would subside soon after waking up. On Friday his headache worsened as the day progressed so we paged our oncologist who recommended an immediate MRI (brain scan), which required us to go to the Karmanos ER. We arrived at the ER around 2:30pm and Nate was treated with a steroid to reduce the swelling in the brain. Fortunately his headache subsided about one half hour after getting the steroid drug (Decadron) and he finally was taken for the MRI at 10pm. The scan showed a large tumor (4x4x5cm)behind his right eye near the back of his skull, sitting on top of the right hemisphere of his brain. He was admitted to Karmanos and was taken up to a room at 2am.

On Saturday we met with a team of neurosurgeons who showed us the scans and gave us information on various options to treat the brain tumor.

1) I can have the tumor surgically removed which will required a sizable hole drilled through my skull. This method will enable the neurosurgeons to remove approximately 90% of my brain tumor b/c the last 10% would potentially damage healthy brain mass and critical blood vessels for proper blood flow to my brain. Unfortunately leaving this amount of cancer will likely result in the tumor continuing to grow. Unfortunately tumor growth in the brain tends to be fairly rapid for Melanoma cancer. The recovery time for this surgery would be 2-3 days in the hospital.
2) Following surgery I would have the option of high dose targeted radiation (gamma knife) to kill off remaining cancerous material. More frequent subsequent MRI scans would determine if additional radiation is necessary. The tumor size must be small for the gamma knife technology. None of my other tumors are eligible for surgery or radiation treatments for various reasons. The risk of high dose radiation is that healthy cells in my brain utilized for motor function and healthy blood flow could also be damaged which could cause numerous health issues
3) My final option would be to use medication like steroids and pain killers to manage the headaches and brain swelling, but this would not reduce the size or slow the growth of the brain tumor. The neurosurgeon's best guess would be 1 to 3 months before I would drop into a coma from the pressure on my brain stem if I went this route.

The latest CT scans (neck to abdomen) from 2 weeks ago showed that the mets in my liver and lungs are still growing, so I am no longer taking the phase 1 clinical drug. At this point there really aren't many systemic (i.e. root cause) options for the treatment of my cancer. I have tried multiple conventional and alternative therapies each of which offered approximately a 10% chance of effectiveness.

We obviously have a difficult choice to make regarding how to treat this new tumor in my brain, since we most likely won't be treating my cancer systemically it is likely that the tumors in my liver, lungs, and brain will continue to grow. Please pray for us to have wisdom in our decision and that which ever route we choose that the best possible treatment will be delivered by the medical team. We will likely make our decision in the next few days, once things settle after the holiday weekend.

Thanks to all who continue to let us know how loved and cared for we are. I wish I had the energy to answer all of your thoughtful messages individually, but please know that each and every one of your notes and responses to my blog lift our spirits and touch our hearts.

God bless,
Nate and Deb

Monday, May 11, 2009

Relay For Life May 16-17

Hi! I will be participating in Relay For Life again this year and wanted to see if you might be interested in coming along side me in this fight against cancer.

Last year with the support of family and friends I raised $1500! I hope to equal that this year.

Relay For Life is a wonderful community event that raises money to combat this disease and to spread awareness about how we can protect ourselves from cancer. It is a fun-filled event that brings together people of all ages to camp-out and take turns walking around a track for 24 hours to signify that cancer never sleeps. It's a time of celebrating those who have battled the disease, remembering those who have died and a chance to fight back against a disease that takes too much from too many.

Together, we will celebrate, remember, and fight back!

Click here to visit my personal page.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

How cancer has influenced my faith

Cancer is not only a physical battle but also an emotional and spiritual journey. Commonly, at diagnosis, cancer patients will ponder why this has happened to them. Many who believe in God will wonder why He would allow such a terrible thing to occur. This often either leads to a resentment of God or spiritual growth in trying to connect closer to Him.

Of course cancer isn't the only cause of pain and suffering that leads to these type of questions and responses. It could be the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship with someone close to you, or maybe a financial hardship.

One of the leaders in my church asked me to share how my experience had influenced my relationship with God. A link to my video interview is below.

Nate Trask Interview from John Miller on Vimeo.

Love to you all,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The past month

The last four weeks of my battle with cancer has been exceptionally difficult. After receiving the third IV injection of my clinical trial drug, I elected to get a permanent pain block procedure on my back near the bottom of my left ribs. This surgery was on 25-Mar. The evening upon returning home from surgery I felt significant pain in my left lung area, ran a 102+ fever, and had uncontrolled sweating. When I went in for my fourth IV injection on 27-Mar I was in so much pain that Deb had to slow to a near stop over every bump and pot-hole on the road (which was quite frequent in mid-town Detroit).

The doctors were concerned about my pain, so a full array of tests were ordered. Deb and I were really anxious when the physicians assistant thought she heard a "gallop" in my heartbeat, so we went to another part of the hospital to get a heart echo. This test looked at the efficiency of my heart and thankfully it showed that my heart was still in great shape. A wonderful technician did this test and to pass the time we talked about faith and the wonder of life, uplifting my spirits on my difficult day. Chest x-rays were clear. The blood tests came back negative for a bacterial infection but due to a specific liver enzyme (and my pain), it was decided that I would not receive my scheduled treatment.

That weekend at home I was just miserable. I prayed constantly to the Lord for mercy (the pain medication wasn't doing anything). When I went in for treatment the week of 30-Mar my liver enzymes were still to elevated to receive treatment and my oncologist determined that I had picked up a nasty virus that was overworking my liver. Thankfully, it looked like the enzyme numbers were coming down and I was experiencing less pain, fevers, and sweats. We agreed that I would resume treatment on 13-Apr and fortunately the pharmaceutical company allowed me to stay in the trial (even though my results could not be used in the analysis of the drug).

We went up to Port Huron for Easter weekend (11,12-Apr) to spend time with my folks, my sisters Meg and Emily, and my brother Steve. My brother Charley and his wife Melissa had spent the first part of the week with us in Dearborn. Deb's mom also came out for a few days this week to help us during the kids Easter break week.
It was great to be able to spend time with family, especially since we are so spread out.

I went in for treatment on 13-Apr and felt relatively well. My spirits were high and my liver enzymes were low. I received my IV injection and went home. On Wednesday I began to feel a new source of sharp pain in my left side. When I went in for treatment on 16-Apr the doctors found that my hemoglobin (red blood cells) had fallen again. Unfortunately this may mean that I am bleeding internally, which is fairly common with Metastatic Melanoma tumors. I am going back in for treatment on Monday (20-Apr) and will also get a blood transfusion (two units). It will be a 10 hour day for us a Karmanos.

Deb and I appreciate all of the wonderful people that have prayed for and encouraged us through this journey. My primary prayer need right now is pain relief, so I can interact more with Deb, Morgan, and Landon. We don't know how much time I have left and every moment I can spend with my family is more valuable to me than gold.

God Bless you all.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Next Trial Selected

My oncologist team at Karmanos has recommended another phase 1 clinical trial that I will start next week. This experimental treatment is a drug designed to unbind a specific protein common in cancerous cells. In theory this would prevent cancerous cells from replicating. The drug will be administered by IV twice a week, which will require me to be at Karmanos for approximately 3 hours. There isn't much existing data on this drug for melanoma patients, so we really don't know what to expect from this treatment. Please pray that this treatment will be effective against my cancer.

When my oncologist was determining my eligibility for this trial she found that my hemoglobin was too low (but not dangerously low). Therefore I had to get my first blood transfusion. I received 2 units of blood, which took approximately 5 hours to administer. One thing I noticed after the transfusion was my energy level had increased.

I have been struggling more with physical pain, especially in my left lung (tumor location) and left shoulder (non-tumor location). I had a couple days early in the week that my pain medication was largely ineffective. I have shared this with my doctors so they scheduled me for a pain clinic. I have never participated in one of these clinics, but from what I understand there are a number of temporary and permanent solutions available. I will see a pain specialist on Monday, who will hopefully help alleviate my pain. After over a year of pain in my left lung, I am ready for relief.

Deb will be taking a medical leave starting tomorrow to provide care for me at home. It will be nice to have her with me during the day. The kids will remain in pre-school. Morgan and Landon have finished their swim lessons and are now trying soccer at the YMCA.

Thanks to all for your continued prayers and support for my healing and family well being.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First Clinical Trial Ineffective

Deb and I met with my oncologist to discuss the progress of my first phase 1 clinical trial (Pazopanib). The CT scans taken on January 30th showed that the tumors in my left lung and next to my spine increased significantly in size. Interestingly the large tumor in my liver didn't appear to increase in dimension. Unfortunately this clinical trial wasn't effective, so my oncologist will investigate other open clinical trials for me to select from. I have to wait 3 weeks before I can start another trial, in order to ensure that the drug has been removed from my system.

We had hoped that the results were going to be positive, particularly since I have been feeling better the last month or so. I still get fatigued easily and have had problems keeping my weight on (I'm down to 175lbs now), but I've been able to manage my pain with medication. I've also been able to avoid catching a cold or the flu this year, which is amazing since our kids constantly bring bugs home with them from pre-school.

I didn't have any significant negative side-effects from the Pazopanib drug, which made it a nice alternative to the previous chemo and biotherapy treatments. One interesting side-effect of the drug was that the hair on my head, beard, and chest turned blondish-white. My dad and I have even more in common (which mom gets a kick out of). I expect the color will turn darker once the drug gets out of my system.

Our thanks goes out to all who continue to pray, love, and provide for us. We continue to hope that we will find an effective treatment for my cancer.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

My experience with the clinical trial drug has been positive thus far. I really haven't had any negative side effects to speak of. I have finished the first phase of the trial, requiring me to spend a full day at Karmanos every other week. Now I am taking the drug orally at home every day, which is much more convenient. I won't find out how well this drug is working against the cancer until I get my next set of scans in early February.

A portion of my strength and energy has returned, but I still struggle to get myself moving in the morning. I thank the Lord that He has taken me to where am I now, compared to where I was just 2 months ago. We pray that the scans will reflect this also.

We went up to Port Huron to spend Christmas with my family. We were fortunate to have everyone there. Morgan and Landon were absolutely joyful when they saw the stack of presents under the tree! I was so glad to be able to spend another Christmas with my family, as this really wasn't expected. We always talk about the true value of Christmas. These past two Christmas seasons have given me a new perspective of celebrating the joy of our Savior's birth.

Happy New Year everyone, we wish all of you the best in 2009!