Like a Little Brother to Me

A Little Kid with a Big Impact


A photo with the man of the hour, Nathan James, at his fourth birthday party. Photo courtesy of Ben Grunow.

Ben Grunow, Staff Writer

      A little under a year ago, I had the incredible opportunity to meet a young boy by the name of Nathan James. Nathan is a four-year-old boy, the sibling to my girlfriend and current senior at Foran, Natalie Goncalves. Despite only knowing him for such a small amount of time, Nathan to me is the younger brother I never had. Not only this, but I consider him to be one of the strongest and bravest people I know. 

      In late 2018, at only the age of three, Nathan was diagnosed with cancer, more specifically, Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in muscle tissue. It is most commonly found in children. Facing such an obstacle at such a young age is unimaginable, and being the one receiving that news is just as painful. This is something I talked about with both Natalie and her mom, Rossana Goncalves, as I wanted to know what was going through their minds during this moment. 

      Rossana told me, “When I found out about Nathan’s cancer, my whole world came down. I had already had a bad feeling since his symptoms were getting worse every day. The minute his doctor came out from the biopsy, she told us to be prepared because she knew it was cancer.”

      Both Rossana and Natalie were overwhelmed with emotion and rightly so. Natalie said, “I couldn’t process it, I refused to do so. I didn’t want to believe it. I just wanted to know why, why him? But all I could do at the moment was give my mom and him the biggest hug and try my best not to show how scared I was.” 

      Hearing this from Nathan’s family broke my heart.  Just to imagine what Nathan and his family dealt with is something I would never wish on anyone, but after forty whole weeks of chemo combined with six weeks of radiation, Nathan was declared to be in remission. The symptoms of his cancer were reduced or gone.

      Stating that Nathan is strong is a severe understatement. He’s a warrior and the best warrior out there, no questions asked. Every weekend, when I went over to the Goncalves house during this process, there was not a second that went by where he wasn’t jumping on top of me, playing with his toy cars or smiling. He experienced a disease that no child should ever have to deal with and he stomped it out like it was nothing. Natalie explained who Nathan is perfectly. “The one word that I think captures his essence is resilient…in the hospital, he would run around with the IV pole following close behind. He maintained his spirit through it all. He was still the same Nathan.” This kind of occurrence just shows how amazing this kid is. Nothing ever slowed him down and something like cancer wasn’t going to get in the way, either.

      Once in a while, my girlfriend jokingly says things like, “You’re just over here so you can hang with Nathan,” or, “I bet you missed Nathan more than me.” Although this may be true occasionally, it’s only because Nathan brings so much contentment to all those around him.

      Nathan is always doing something to put a smile on someone’s face. He is the hype man when his family sings. He yells out ad-libs when rap songs come on, making it seem like he’s performing at a concert. He plays the drums, jamming out on pots and pans for hours on end. He watches Super Camion on Youtube and yells out all the characters’ names when they come out on the show. He brings everyone in the kitchen and has a dance party, vibing to his favorite artist, Travis Scott, on the Alexa. He takes Natalie’s phone and clicks on Snapchat just to use the filters and make funny faces. When he sees someone looking sad and down, he asks, “Are you sad?” and gives that person a hug and kiss on the cheek. Everything Nathan does is something everyone loves

       Nathan to me is a kid I will cherish for the rest of my life. He has brought so much joy and happiness in it that it will be something I will always be grateful for: this bond I have with Nathan, developed in under a year. In under a year, my appreciation for him is out of this world and I consider him to be my brother. This kid could brighten my mood up like no other and it’s all just because Nathan is well himself. 

      I asked both Natalie and Rossana how he has impacted their lives. I’ve only known him for this short amount of time; I couldn’t picture how their lives changed because of him.

      Natalie said, “There are no words that can really describe what he has done for me. He will always be one of my biggest inspirations, and I’m beyond grateful to have him in my life.” 

      She is right, no matter what I’ve said so far, there’s not enough time in the day to express how amazing Nathan is. Despite all the hardships he has faced, Nathan has continued time and time again to be a light to everyone’s life

      His mom stated, “Since the day he was born, he changed my life. To me, he is a gift from God. When he was diagnosed it made me realize that I need to value life every day and to keep going.”

      At only four years old, Nathan motivates people to live their best life and to never give up. He expresses this through all of his actions, and he may be too young to understand but every single person that knows him has been positively impacted by him one way or another.