He lost his leg to childhood cancer, but now he swims to raise money for scientific research so others won’t have to face the same trauma.
Nathan Rix has taken part in the annual Macquarie Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim three times – the first in 2014 and most recently on 2 December 2018. Each time he’s chosen to raise money for the event’s official charity partner, The Kids’ Cancer Project.
To date, he has raised a whopping $6,000 for the independent national charity that funds childhood cancer research by getting friends and family to sponsor his journey swim each year, which starts at Bondi Beach and finishes 2.4 kilometres down the coast on the sands outside Bronte SLSC, the world’s first Surf Life Saving club.
Nathan Rix (left) with Col Reynolds, Founder of The Kids' Cancer Project at the start of the 2017 Macquarie Bondi to Bronte.
Nathan was an active, fun-loving seven-year-old in 1995 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“Twenty-four years ago I went to the doctor with an innocent lump on my knee which turned out to be a very rare malignant tumour,” Nathan said.
As a small child, Nathan endured countless operations, six weeks of radiation and 12 months of chemotherapy. He also had to spend ten days in an induced coma.
While the treatments were harsh, he was able to complete school and enter the workforce. But then tragedy struck in November 2004 when Nathan discovered his cancer had returned.
“I was battling with significant pain,” said Nathan. “A trip to the specialist confirmed I had relapsed and the tumour had shattered my tibia. I’d been going to work every day with broken leg.”
“My knee and part of my tibia was replaced, but within six months I relapsed again resulting in my right leg being amputated above the knee in May 2005.
“I might have lost my leg,” said Nathan. “But I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I’m still here to tell a story.”
While he used to swim a fair bit as a kid, he dropped the sport when he reached his teens. As a young adult recovering from surgery, it was a sport he couldn’t wait to get back into.
“I was in the pool swimming as soon as I was allowed by doctors after my amputation,” said Nathan. “But it was only ever to relax or go for a snorkel.”
That changed four years ago when on the spur of the moment he decided to challenge himself a little more.
Read more: Do what you love and make it count.
“I did two laps and I was buggered,” laughed Nathan. “I just gradually built up the distance and when I swam one kilometre I was stoked.”
“It went from there; trying to go a little further every time. Swimming has never been about speed for me, it’s about distance.”
This is a man who has trained to go the distance, and with so many making donations on his behalf he says, “I can’t afford to let them down”, but staying afloat with only one leg can be a challenge.
“I use a short-blade Head swim fin on my left foot,” said Nathan. “It’s mainly to keep me balanced in the water as my bottom half tends to want to sink with only having the one leg.”
“Actually, I was a little nervous before this year’s swim, but my good mate Paul who swam with me put it very simply, “Rixi, you’re out there and if you’re tired just keep throwing those arms over, there’s no other choice no turning back, we are swimming to Bronte mate”.
Along with the physical challenge, Nathan said the fundraising aspect of the swim is also a great attraction for him. The thousands of dollars coming simply from sharing his story and fundraising page on Facebook.
Nathan crosses the finish line for kids' cancer research at the Macquarie Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim December 2018.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of people,” he said. “If everyone who signed up for the swim did the fundraising as well they’d be blown away by the support from family, friends, work colleagues and social groups out there, and it would be a massive boost to The Kids’ Cancer Project.”
“If we can save one family going through what I did it's worth every cent and every cent counts,” said Nathan.
Not only is he a warrior in the water, Nathan is also a talented singer-songwriter and has recorded a song called Keep On Keeping On. It was especially written from the heart for a couple of his friends who were doing tough at the time.
“Music is a wonderful way for people to relate to difficult situations in their lives,” he said.
Nathan would know. He also lost his mum to cancer when he was just 10-years-old.
“I want to do anything I can so that other families don’t have to go through what I did,” said Nathan. “That’s why I’m raising money for medical research to find kinder, more effective treatments for cancer.”
Col Reynolds, Founder and Director of The Kids’ Cancer Project, is delighted Nathan has chosen to participate in the swim and raising money for the cause.
“I’m delighted to see Nathan participate in this event,” said Col. “In Australia there are approximately 30,000 people living with the late effects of childhood cancer. That means their cancer journey isn’t over once their initial treatment ends.”
“I’m proud Nathan is using his story to build awareness and raise funds, together we will show kids suffering with cancer that they don’t stand alone,” said Col.
“I plan to be back next year,” said Nathan. “It’s not every day you get the chance to swim between two of Australia’s most famous beaches and raise money for cancer research.”
“One year I would like to see a team of childhood cancer survivors compete in the swim.”
We’d like to see that too mate.
Donate to research and help find more effective treatments for kids with cancer.