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Leesburg Man Continues Cancer Battle Through Martial Arts, Prays For A Christmas Miracle

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photo by Cindy Sharp
Chris Nataline (center) stands with trainers Annie and David Iturrino at Brigadeiro Mount Dora Jiu Jitsu in Eustis.

Chris Nataline, 38, of Leesburg has been battling non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer since his stage 4 diagnosis in 2010. Soon after the birth of his first daughter, he received the life-threatening news that changed his course in life in order to survive.

“I just thought I was tired all the time because we had a newborn,” Nataline said. “After hearing that I was stage 4, it was easy to go into a dark place. I had already been through so much in my life and I can see why people give up because this world is really hard. That’s when I turned to martial arts.”

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Throughout his chemo treatments, Nataline continued to train, saying he’d rather leave this world as a warrior than a coward.

“My friend kept encouraging me and working with me to get out of bed and hit the pads,” he said. “It really kept my mind off of the dark places and got my aggression out.”

However, the chemo wasn’t having an effect on the tumors located in his right lung, lymph nodes and vertebrae. Thankfully, he qualified for a new targeted therapy in clinical trials which shrank the tumors 60 percent in the first six weeks.

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“They were beautiful results,” Nataline said. “They told me that I’d never be able to do martial arts again and that I’d only live for a year, but that was seven years ago and I’m still on the mats.”

Throughout the years, Nataline has gone back and forth through remission. After being kicked in the neck in a Kung Fu lesson, a tumor was discovered in his spinal chord that if left unfound, would have paralyzed him.

“More radiation and more treatments but the doctors couldn’t believe I was

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photo by Cindy Sharp
Chris Nataline hits the mats in Jiu Jitsu training at Brigadeiro Mount Dora Jiu Jitsu in Eustis.

still walking,” he said.

Another surprise came when his wife, Karen, found out she was pregnant with their second daughter.

“She’s our miracle baby,” he said. “We weren’t supposed to be able to have kids but we prayed for another child. They are now 8 and 4 and the most amazing part of my life. I teach them never to quit no matter what and that you can’t allow yourself to go into those dark places.”

Today, Nataline is undergoing more radiation for tumors located on his brain and right lung while waiting to hear if he qualifies for another clinical trail. He continues to train at Brigadeiro Mount Dora Jiu Jitsu in Eustis under David and Annie Iturrino, where he says he has found a family unlike any other.

“This place has seen miracles happen,” Nataline said. “This is a great place for my family and they work with me through my trials.”

For Christmas, Nataline is praying for a miracle.

“I want to be around to take care of my mother and father,” he said. “I want to see my kids grow up and I want to grow old with my wife. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do, but I know it’s all in God’s hands. 2017 has been the hardest year for me yet but I want to be a beacon for people in dark places. You don’t get to choose the path, but you can choose the attitude.”

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Cindy Sharp
Cindy Sharp has been a freelance photographer and writer for four years in the Lake and Sumter County area, covering hundreds of feature articles including local dining, religion, veterans, community events and human interest. She earned a B.S. in Mass Communication from the University of Central Arkansas, where she was Associate Editor of the campus publication, The Scroll. Cindy’s favorite thing to write about is people helping people and making the world a better place.

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