Bladder cancer patient is “living proof” of research advances

A retiree in Wareham, Mass., 63-year-old Nathan Maxim started having bladder issues, followed by bowel issues, in fall 2018. An avid outdoorsman, he had trouble going on hikes and staying comfortable after exercising or eating. After a colonoscopy, MRI, and multiple biopsies, Nathan found out he had bladder cancer, the fourth most common cancer in American men. It had been wrapped around part of his colon, causing his bowel and appetite issues. 

“When they diagnosed me, I said, ‘I’m going to Dana-Farber,’” Nathan recalls. “My body had just started shutting down. I was scheduled for surgery at the end of December 2018, but I ended up in the hospital because I couldn’t eat. That’s when I met Dr. Sonpavde.”

“Dr. Sonpavde told me the type of cancer and that the prognosis is generally a year,” Nathan continues, of his oncologist, Guru Sonpavde, MD, director of Dana-Farber’s Bladder Cancer Program. “I looked at him and said, ‘Well, we better get going.’ And we got going right then—that very day.”

Nathan kept the news of his prognosis quiet from all but his trusted deacon and minister and focused on his treatments and continuing with as active a lifestyle as possible. After his first two chemotherapy treatments, Nathan says he immediately started feeling better. This first course of treatment lasted a year, as Dr. Sonpavde had predicted. In spring 2020, Nathan started another type of chemo, which sidelined him a bit with neuropathy and weakness.

“I’m dealing with a triple whammy—not only cancer, but old age and a pandemic,” Nathan says. “There is isolation and the unknown, but my care team and my family have been instrumental. I know some people think ‘stay positive’ is a cliché, but for me and my family, we live it.”

“It’s okay to ask for help,” adds Nathan, who has relied on his wife of 36 years, Deborah, for support throughout his treatment. “It’s important to know, not only for cancer but for growing old too, that it’s okay to ask for help. Through this process, I have been the beneficiary of the support of countless others. Aside from my family and care team, so many have given their time, money, and themselves for clinical trials and tests, all to benefit future and sometimes present generations.”

In January 2021, Nathan’s second chemotherapy stopped working, but Dr. Sonpavde knew a new treatment was expected to be approved that spring, and low and behold, in May 2021, Nathan was able to switch treatments to a new approach, which has had him on a good trajectory since—nearly four years after his original diagnosis.

“I am living proof that the research does catch up with the treatment,” he says. “If you’re able to keep moving forward, there’s always something new on the horizon because of the research and the dollars that support it. I feel blessed to have such a great facility available to me.”

Nathan hopes, one day, to have his efforts pay it forward for someone else, but for now, he is enjoying each and every day, teaching his grandchildren tennis, enjoying life with his wife, and striving to be the best version of himself.

Support Dana-Farber patients like Nathan by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at