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Cancer can’t keep Aurora teen from moving forward in life

West Aurorgrad Nate Berg relaxes his dorm room University WisconsPlatteville year after being diagnosed with cancer. | Submitted Photo

West Aurora grad Nate Berg relaxes in his dorm room at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, a year after being diagnosed with cancer. | Submitted Photo

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:27AM

What difference a year can make! One year ago Aurora teenager Nate Berg experienced the first symptoms of T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.

His official diagnosis came in early October. I told you in December how Nates’s senior year at West High had been thrown into upheaval as he fought the cancer. There was a local blood drive in Nate’s honor and soccer teammates wore “kick it, Nate” wristbands.

One year later, Nate is a West Aurora graduate. He attends the University of Wisconsin at Platteville in a pre-veterinary medicine program. Though he continues chemotherapy, he’s enjoying his life as a college student.

“He’s pretty much a typical college kid now,” said his father, Tim. “In fact, he broke his wrist the first week at school, while long-boarding (a sort of extended skateboard).”

“We’re happy,” Tim continued. “Three months ago we didn’t know if he’d be able to go away to college at all.”

Having not spoken to the Bergs since last year, I was struck by the difference in their voices. While their hope was always evident, now the obvious joy came through as well.

The other thing I noticed was a sense of genuine awe. Ellen explained how, as an oncology nurse, hers is a world of adults fighting cancer. “When an adult is diagnosed, the anxiety and fear are huge,” Ellen said. “What I learned with Nate is that kids don’t over-think it.”

Nate comes home every four weeks to do IV chemotherapy. In every two months out of three, that means a spinal tap. Ellen said Nate had a horrific headache the first time, so they put a protocol into places with extra liquids, etc., to combat it. They happily anticipate the end of chemotherapy in February 2014.

Tim and Ellen are not only in awe of their son’s positive attitude and strength through this, but also maintain a deep appreciation of the community’s continued support. They told me about more events in Nate’s honor, including a fundraiser by some West High moms at the Aurora Turner’s Club with live music and how in August Nate was honored at the Chicago Air and Water Show in front of a million people — and it was a complete surprise.

“Not to minimize in any way what he has been through,” said Ellen, “but some moments this past year have just been spectacular.”

“I think maybe our family has a gift that not everyone gets,” Ellen mused. “Life looks different to us now.”

Not only do they celebrate every day they have, Tim and Ellen are particularly proud of the man their son is becoming through these trials. “He is comfortable around everyone — adults, children, healthy, sick ... He’s an inspiration.”

The Berg family has been sustained through this difficult year by this wonderful community that is constantly looking for ways to help. It’s not only the big events, but the individuals who regularly ask how Nate is doing and genuinely care.

When I suggested that the worst is finally over, Tim hesitated, then answered: “That’s my hope, but I’m not ready to say it out loud yet.”

What Tim and Ellen Berg will say is “thank you” to everyone who has helped them through this past year.

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