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Ryan Natzke is a kidney cancer survivor and chairs the KCA’s Patient & Caregiver Advisory Council (PCAC). He is also a member of the KCA’s Board of Directors and is the Chief External Affairs Officer of the Marshfield Clinic Health System in Madison, Wisconsin. The PCAC serves as the voice of the patient and provides the vital link between the patient community and the KCA.

We spoke with Ryan about how he became involved with the KCA.

What motivated you to get involved with the Kidney Cancer Association?

I was diagnosed with RCC at 35 years old, a little over five years ago, and had a radical nephrectomy.  With a wife and seven-year-old son, a lot of things went through my mind at that time.  The mental and emotional aspect of having cancer was much tougher on me than anything physically. 

I have been NED [no evidence of disease] at all of my follow ups.  Having had some time to process, I wanted to help find a cure to this disease and to bring some level of comfort to patients that have recently been diagnosed that don’t know what to do next.  Having worked in politics my whole career and in health care advocacy for the last 15, I hope I can use some of the things I’ve learned and experienced to add value to the board and to patients dealing with kidney cancer.

Length of time on the Board or working with the KCA?

I reached out to Gretchen [E. Vaughan, the KCA’s President and CEO] several months ago and let her know I wanted to get involved.  I officially joined the board in November 2019!

What is your favorite travel destination and why?

The Road. We do a two-week road trip every summer with a focus on national parks, universities, and state capitols.  We get pennants from all the universities we go to, which is well over 50, including all of the Big Ten (even Rutgers).  This summer we will finish the continental 48 with a southern trip including Texas and New Mexico. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

The sport of ultimate frisbee is a passion of mine.  I’ve played since high school and now enjoy coaching middle and high schoolers. I’ve also recently bought into the local professional ultimate frisbee team in Madison, the Madison Radicals. The sport is unique in that it is governed by the spirit of the game and players can even overrule the refs in professional ultimate by using “the Integrity Rule” where you call the foul on yourself or admit that you didn’t catch it or weren’t in bounds.  The culture is great and if you have an American Ultimate Disc League  (AUDL) team in your community you should check it out! There isn’t anything more exciting in sports than to watch someone chasing down and diving for a floating disc. 

What is one thing most people do not know about you?

While growing up music was a large part of my life.  I had taken piano lessons early, but I played the saxophone and tenor sax in jazz band was my favorite. I also self-taught myself trumpet and learned how to play the bassoon so I could go on the orchestra trip in high school.  Now I haven’t played my saxophone in probably 20 years.

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