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Great Wichita Story

Married cancer survivors offer hope from experience

By Nassim Benchaabane
The Wichita Eagle

Paul Nash never expected that someone in his family would have to battle cancer.

When his wife, Martha, called to tell him she had to go see a surgeon, it was a sign he should be concerned, he said. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2004.

Paul Nash endured painful headaches while she went through treatment. He didn’t know at the time that the headaches, too, were a sign. He was diagnosed with brain cancer the following May.

“You just kind of have to sit and process it for a while,” he said. “It’s not easy information to be told.”

While battling cancer as a couple was difficult, Paul, 55, and Martha, 57, were able to support each other as they went through treatment in Wichita, he said. For the past seven years, they also have supported Wichita residents battling cancer through their work with Victory in the Valley, a local nonprofit.

The Nashes will be working a booth for Victory in the Valley at Saturday’s Head for the Cure 5K, a run to raise money for brain cancer research.

Paul Nash is the leader of Head Strong, a support group within Victory in the Valley specifically for patients battling brain cancer. Victory in the Valley director Diana Thomi said she asked Nash to coordinate Head Strong in 2012 because he’s “walked the walk” and can speak from experience.

“It takes someone who has lived it to bring hope, and they (the Nashes) just love to give,” she said.

The Nashes became involved in support groups, including in their hometown of Oxford, when their pastor told them to “find goodness in the midst of all the darkness” they had been through, Paul Nash said.

“They say there aren’t really words in our vocabulary to describe what it’s like going through cancer treatment,” he said. “You have to take it day by day, be mindful of what you’re going through and trust the people you’re working with.”

Brain cancer affects “everything you do,” Nash said. The damage it can leave on the brain – including short-term memory loss, fatigue and personality changes – often outlasts the cancer itself.

“You don’t know what you’re going to wind up with, but there’s a probability you’re going to suffer some side effects,” said Nash, who experiences short-term memory loss and has trouble sleeping.

Martha Nash beat cancer in 2013. The couple went out for dinner to celebrate, though Paul Nash can’t remember where they went and what they ate. He does remember that it was nice.

“You learn to appreciate the small things in life,” he said.

Reach Nassim Benchaabane at 316-268-6514 or

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