Girls courageIt doesn't matter that she just got out of the hospital a little over a month ago and that on this Fourth of July holiday she is sitting in her living room playing with her dog and surfing the Internet after helping her dad hang an American flag in the living room of their Mililani home.
A 12-year-old with cancerJapan's entry plots risky course
keeps tabs on her special crew
By B.J. Reyes
All it takes is a phone call and 12-year-old Natalie Frazier is whisked off to the deck of a yacht and into the thick of this year's Transpacific Yacht Race.
"What degrees are you at? What's your latitude and longitude?" she calls into the phone.
She makes a dot on the small map in front of her and senses that maybe her fellow crew members might have strayed a bit off course.
"Why can't you steer it?" she asks.
"You can tell she's not a sailor," offers her mother, Nancy.
That her nautical skills may need some work is of no concern to the voice on the other end of the phone.
That's not why Dan Doyle and Bruce Burgess selected Natalie to be an honorary crew member for their entry in this year's race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
"She's really an inspiration," Doyle said by satellite phone from the deck of his yacht, Two Guys on the Edge.
Natalie, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in April of last year, was made an honorary crew member to help raise awareness and funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
After joining the advisory committee of the society's Honolulu chapter in May, Doyle was looking for a way to let more people know about the organization's mission of fighting blood-related cancers.
Doyle had received a lot of recognition in the past through his competition in the annual TransPac race and saw it as an opportunity to promote the organization, said Mea Neal, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society spokeswoman in Honolulu.
"Once he decided that, I thought, 'Let's take it a step further and get you somebody that you can connect the mission to,'" said Neal, who put Doyle in touch with Natalie and her parents, Nancy and Dean.
"She ended up being the perfect person to be their honorary crew member," Neal said. "She's a wonderful little girl."
Doyle has kept Natalie updated on the boat's progress by satellite phone. Two Guys on the Edge left Los Angeles on July 1 after a 47-minute delay caused by faulty equipment. Early yesterday, the yacht was about 1,897 miles from Honolulu, and Doyle was hopeful that weather would pick up and get the yacht into Hawaii by next Thursday.
Doyle says it is fitting that his boat is represented by Natalie because her fight parallels the challenges that he and Burgess face in the TransPac: Theirs is the smallest boat in the field.
Having her on their team, "it's huge," Doyle said. "When you think of the lows of our nights, like climbing into a damp bunk ... and suddenly you think of someone like Natalie, it makes our trials and tribulations seem trivial."
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. About 1,700 children under the age of 20 are diagnosed with lymphoma each year, with 750 to 800 of those cases being non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Since the diagnosis, Nancy Frazier said, her daughter has received 23 chemotherapy treatments causing all of the typical side effects, including hair loss, nausea and joint pain.
Natalie's last chemotherapy treatment was in May, right about the time that Doyle approached the family with the idea of making her an honorary crew member.
"It's been incredibly supportive for her," Nancy Frazier said. "She's really been through a lot."
Natalie can sum up the experience in one word: "Cool."
"It's fun," she adds. "I like to track where they are."