Husband, Father and Grandfather, and Survivor of HPV-Attributed Tongue Cancer; Fort Worth, TX
Christopher (Chris) Nolan (not the Batman director), and his wife of 32 years, Robin, live in Fort Worth, Texas and are the proud parents of three grown sons: Alex, and twins Elliott and Nick. Elliott and his wife, Robynne, also live in Texas with Chris’ first grandchild, Joleigh.
In the Summer of 2010, his wife decided to train to run a half marathon for her upcoming December birthday. As professed “gym rats” of weight lifting, but not necessarily running, they embarked upon this goal together. Chris trained with and coached Robin for the race, and she successfully finished the Dallas Half Marathon “in spite of his coaching.” Chris was arguably in the best shape of his life but had, for several months, become increasingly aware of a swollen lymph node on the right side of his neck.
Thinking it was just another a sinus infection, which he seemed prone to, he treated himself with a barrage of over-the-counter sinus medications and even borrowed a Z-pack from a friend.
In February of 2011, he finally made an appointment with his physician, who examined the swollen nodes and immediately sent him to an ENT. Upon further examination by an ENT, Chris underwent a CT with contrast and then a fine needle biopsy of the node.
At age 49, Chris was diagnosed with HPV-attributed Stage IV tongue cancer. A lifelong non-smoker and an abstainer of all alcohol the past 15 years or so, the diagnosis left him stunned.
He underwent 40 arcs of radiation with concurrent chemo. He powered through his treatments and even declined the stomach tube and port so he could work through the duration of treatment.
“It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but my faith and fitness level were huge benefits,” explained Chris. “I am now a proud 7-year survivor.”
The first few years after treatment, Chris coached several men through the journey. As time has progressed, however, it has since become difficult for doctors to put him in contact with other head and neck cancer patients due to privacy issues. So, he’s been doing outreach on his own and educating through social media.
In September 2018, he was featured in Hoka One’s fall advertising campaign for their Cavu running shoe, primarily for being a cancer survivor See Chris in the campaign here.
The main points Chris shares with others facing their own cancer journey:
- You are stronger than you think.
- As best you can, focus on today and reduce worry. The VAST majority of things I worried about never happened. That worry time would have been much better spent focusing on something positive.
- Let people help you. As much as you want to do it yourself, those who love you want to do…something… anything… to help. Let them. It will bless you both.
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- A Survivor’s Experience as an Imerman Angels Mentor
- A Cancer Researcher’s Thoughts on HPV Vaccination
- Head & Neck Cancer Alliance Stands with American Cancer Society Against Racism