Madison College Employee Experiences Kindness through Cancer Diagnosis

Alan credits his wife Amanda, son and daughter for his strength to fight cancer.

At the age of 35, Alan Natachu heard what in a series may be the three most frightening words in the English language: “You have cancer.” He was diagnosed with Stage III Colorectal Cancer. Natachu, technology training coordinator with the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning at Madison College in Madison, Wis., found himself relying on the kindness of his colleagues to get him through his life-changing diagnosis.

Natachu, who is married, has a son and daughter who stood by his side during treatment. He also credits Gilda’s Club for support and guidance as he navigated the life-changing illness.

In 2016, the Benefits Committee at Madison College introduced a new program for benefit of fellow workers: Donation of paid leave. This new initiative allowed employees to donate their accrued time to other employees. Natachu was the first recipient of this new benefit.

“It was a lifesaver,” Natachu says. “Cancer takes a lot out of you emotionally, physically and financially. It was nice to have that cushion.” Natachu received two weeks of donated time from his colleagues — the maximum allowed in the new benefit.

Alan Natachu battled Stage III Colorectal Cancer at UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Treatment started as a round of chemotherapy and radiation daily for a month at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. On May 4, 2016, Natachu had his first of two surgeries, followed by a second round of chemotherapy that lasted for 12 weeks. Treatment would occur on Friday with Natachu needing to take Monday and Tuesday off and sometimes Wednesday as treatment progressed. After he finished treatment at the end of September, he had another surgery in November.

Natachu is now cancer free and is making it his goal to share his story to inspire others. “Colon cancer is seen as an ‘old-person’s disease.’ It was shock to get this diagnosis at 35,” he says. “I want people to be aware that this is not an elder disease and that it is treatable if caught in time.” Natachu will have scans every three months leading to the first anniversary of his diagnosis to monitor his progress.

“I am so grateful to my wife. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. I am also grateful to the people at Gilda’s Club for the amazing support, and to my remarkable department at CETL,” he says. “I am committed to sharing my knowledge, time and resources as a young colorectal cancer survivor.”