Fundraiser Wednesday to benefit SM East grad battling brain cancer

Natalie Bender
A month ago, 2011 SM East graduate Natalie Bender’s family was preparing for a huge life change: sending their daughter off to college.

Today, college has been postponed as they face an entirely different life changing set of circumstances: supporting Natalie as she battles brain cancer.

Bender went to the Lake of the Ozarks with some friends last month, and woke up after with blurry vision after going tubing.

“We figured she just had whiplash or something,” said Deann Bender, Natalie’s mom. “But when she woke up a few days later with her head hurting, we knew it was something serious.”

Doctors at the University of Kansas Cancer Center conducted a series of tests, and found tumors in her brain and brain stem as well as near her tailbone. She had brain cancer and it had spread throughout her body.

Despite the fact that her cancer was at Stage IV, physicians tell her family that Natalie’s chances of beating the disease are relatively strong. Soon she’ll start a six week program of radiation and chemo therapy. Then she’ll get one month of rest and start a rotation of 10 chemo treatments spaced out every three weeks.

While the cancer treatments are crucial to save Natalie’s life, they’ll leave her sterile. So on Monday, doctors performed an operation to preserve some of Natalie’s eggs so she’ll have the option of having her own baby when she’s an adult. Though her family’s insurance covers the cancer-specific treatments, they must pay the $6,000 for the egg operation out of pocket.

To help defray some of the costs of the operation, there will be a fundraiser for Natalie at Noodles and Company at the State Line Shopping Center Wednesday, July 27. Twenty-five percent of all orders placed between 5 and 9 p.m. will go towards Natalie’s medical costs.

For more information about Natalie and her family, visit their Caring Bridge site or Natalie’s blog.