Kickin' Cancer One Smile at a Time.

By Jefferson Matthews

Kickin' Cancer One Smile at a Time.  That is the motto of Team Nattaly. Nattaly Marie is a Battle Creek Pre-schooler who is 4-years old and has cancer. Her parents also affectionately call her names like tatter bean, nayte, Marie, bug, and natty just to name a few.

On Saturday, July 12, Nattaly Marie will be the beneficiary for the Battle Creek Coyotes Football team when they take on the Allen County (IN) Lions at Harper Creek High School at 6:30 PM.

Proceeds from the gate admissions, donation jars, and 50/50 raffle will help Nattaly and her family with Nattaly's battle against cancer.

“Finding out was the worst.” said Nattaly's mother, Alyssa Schuck. “It took a few days to process. I had to accept that my little girl had cancer. I also said to myself, my husband Glen, and Nattaly's father, Chris (Pluymers), 'It doesn't matter how we feel. We have to get through it.'”

Nattaly and her family learned of her cancer diagnose on Valentine's Day's 2014. As the heartbreaking news began to set in, Nattaly's parents knew they had to keep it together for Nattaly.

“We have to be brave. We are her support system. We cannot show cracks and our fears in front of her.”  shared Nattaly's mother. “However, as anyone who has ever dealt with something like this will tell you, that you can only be strong for so long. There will always be someone there to help you through it.”

Nattaly receives cancer treatment at Bronson Pediatric Oncology Unit in Kalamazoo. Her particular cancer, Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, is a soft tissue cancer that is attached to Nattaly's neck. She has underwent several treatments including chemotherapy and radiation.

“The worst part is not feeling good.” said Nattaly in a sweet, soft, tired voice. “I get sleepy and the medicine makes my belly feel bad. I don't like it, but I have to do it to get better”

Nattaly, like all chemotherapy patients, had her hair fall out. To cope with the side effect of radiation, the staff at Bronson Pediatric Oncology Unit gave her a Barbie that was designed to have no hair. It came complete with wigs and the message to Nattaly that she wasn't as different as she thought.

No parent would ever choose a children's hospital as a destination they hope their child will have to attend, but when life throws you a curve ball, you have to make the best of a bad situation.

Nattaly, the ever-adorable topic of this article who turns 5 in November, made lots of friends at the children's hospital.

None more than a 10-year old girl who also has cancer and quickly became one of Nattaly's best friends.

“She was like an older sister to tatter bean, and several of the other girls at Bronson. No matter how bad or weak she felt, she would always take time to play with her. They would color together, listen to music together, and sometimes they would just sit and talk.” remembered Nattaly's mom.

Unfortunately, with the experience of having made such a great friend, Nattaly also had to experience a great loss as her friend lost her battle with cancer, passing away last Saturday.

See Nattaly Marie is only four-years old, but has already been through what every parent hopes their child will never have to endure, losing a friend.

“Explaining to Nattaly about her friend dying was probably the hardest part of the entire process. It was the bridge that was hardest to cross. Making a four year old understand without scaring her! Then watching the tears and fear all come to her face at once. It was a very emotional Sunday night at the Schuck house!” explained Nattaly's mother.

She continued by talking about the perspective this gave them as parents. “We just had a challenging day. Our little bug had an attitude all day, and nothing we could do could make her happy. We just didn't know what to do. We didn't know how to make her feel better. I looked at my husband and I said, 'We're done. We have nothing more to give.'”'

“Then we heard about Natty's friend and there were just no words to express how we felt. Her loss gave us a perspective that in the grand scheme of things, Nattaly having a terrible day was nothing compared to the challenges of the family that had just lost their little girl and grief and circumstances they were having to face. After Marie's friend passed, we were able to find a way to dig a little deeper. Knowing what her family was going through helped us to renew our strength.”

Nattaly and her friend are a reminder that cancer is an equal opportunity disease.

It does not care if you have a smile that lights up every room and brightens up the world of each person you meet, nor does it care if you love to swim and are learning to swim on your belly, that purple is your favorite color, or that you want to grow to be a pediatric oncologist to help treat children with cancer.

No, Cancer is an equal opportunity provider of sleepless nights, restless days, endless doctors’ visits, and hundreds, if not thousands, of moments of complete uncertainty.

However, even if cancer doesn't care there will always be a support system in place that does care.

We care that Nattaly loves playing with her cousin at the lake.

We care that Nattaly loves singing all the songs from the Disney movie Frozen.

We care that Nattaly loves going to Full Blast with her dad, and watching her favorite show, Doc McStuffins, about a six-year old girl who plays doctor by fixing broken toys.

We care that Nattaly loves eating spaghetti and sucking up the spaghetti noodles between her lips until they make a smacking noise, and eating as much Blue Moon ice cream as she can get her sticky hands on.

We care that Nattaly and her family needs support and financial assistance in their battle against cancer.

We care that Nattaly and her family reached out for help, so the Battle Creek Coyotes stretched out their hands and offered Nattaly and her family a chance to take a night off battling the “big C” to come out and watch the Coyotes play a game in her honor and raise money to help them with medical costs.

We urge you to come out and show this four-year old little girl and her family that a community is united for her, because they believe in a world where little girls who love coloring books and singing the song “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider” don't lose a battle to cancer.

We urge each and every one of you who read this to come out and raise money for this little girl and her family because their is a little bit of Nattaly Marie in all of us.

Saturday the Battle Creek Coyotes urge the community to come together for one night to make the world of Nattaly Marie and her family a better place.

Come to the game on Saturday, July 12, and unite with the Battle Creek Coyotes in giving

Nattaly Marie and her family a night they will never forget.

Oh, and remember the creed of Team Nattaly.

Kickin' Cancer One Smile at a Time.

We hope to see your smile on Saturday.