Nate Lindskoog sits for a shoe fitting for his partial prosthetic leg. Lindskoog was blessed by a positive attitude, strong faith, family support, and good medical care to see him through his trial with rhabdomyosarcoma. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
Meeting Nate Lindskoog, owner of The Tower Grill at the Nampa Municipal Airport, is an opportunity to meet a positive, upbeat person. Walk into the restaurant and see him chatting amiably with staff and customers.
At 41, Lindskoog is spiritually a man complete in his joy of the Lord, while physically he lost part of his right leg below the knee to a form of cancer with a long name: rhabdomyosarcoma.
His cancer journey began in 2021. He explained that in July of that year and into July of the following year, he experienced on-and-off discomfort in his leg. For a while, he said, he’d feel bad, then okay, then bad again. This went on until he ended up in the St. Luke’s emergency room on July 28, 2022. He’d been unable to sleep because the pain in his limb had become so severe.
Like many a cancer patient, he can tell an intricate story about what happened next.
“They did biopsies on me,” Lindskoog said, “but for three weeks, no pathology lab was able to tell me what was wrong, or give it a name.”
At one point, medical staff cut his leg open and removed a grape-sized chunk filled with purple liquid. “It went to four different pathology labs and they didn’t know what it was,” Lindskoog said. “My own doctor said he’d never seen that before. … That didn’t make me feel too good … ”
It was around the first biopsy in August that reconstructive orthopedic surgery specialist, Dr. Jeff Menzner at St. Luke’s in Boise, told Lindskoog that amputation was not off the table. The 41-year-old put that difficult news in what he calls his “brain tumbler” and “let it spin for a while.”
Lindskoog and his wife Heidi have six kids, including: a 17-year-old daughter; 15-year-old twins, a boy and a girl; 13-year-old twins, both boys; and a 10-year-old son. “At this point, I was taking it fine, telling the kids, ‘I may get a robot leg’ – kind of reframing it,” he said.
Lindskoog then went to a second opinion consultation at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City on October 4. Important diagnoses and decisions were made, and an amputation was scheduled for 10 days later on October 14. It was not until two weeks later, however, that the doctors were definitively able to identify the type of cancer in Lindskoog’s leg.
Rhabdomyosarcoma occurs rarely in adults and generally strikes only children. It is “a cancer of soft tissue (such as muscle), connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage), or bone. It usually begins in muscles that are attached to bones and that help the body move.” (Information taken from cancer.gov, specifically about soft tissue sarcoma at https://www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/patient/rhabdomyosarcoma-treatment)
Family rallied around Lindskoog throughout the medical analysis, the surgery, and the recovery.
“Heidi was extremely supportive. We homeschool, and the flexibility was nice. I came home from the hospital two days after surgery and was hopping around within two weeks.”
He had a partial prosthetic leg by Christmas.
He started chemotherapy this past January and continued it through September 15, his last chemo day. His treatments included five days in a row for five hours, then 21 days off. He’s now required to have an MRI and CT scan on a regular basis for the next two years through 2025.
The Tower Grill, which Lindskoog took ownership of on October 13, 2016, remained open throughout his challenges. “My wife and teenagers work regularly,” Lindskoog explained. “What started out as a necessity became a real blessing – I love watching my kids work.”
Faith helped Lindskoog through his sarcoma battle as well. And in fact, he’s able to say: “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. God has known me since before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). He knows how many hairs I have on my head (Luke 12:7). He knows what I can handle.
“The first three weeks before opening the restaurant, God and I had a conversation. Actually it was more like a ‘Sit down and be quiet’ moment. He asked me, ‘Do you trust Me or not?’”
Strengthening his trust muscles has been part of both owning the restaurant and getting through cancer.
He explained: “For a guy who generally has it all in control, when things are hard does that mean I should not trust God, or do I have peace in the midst of discomfort – the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6 or 4:7)?”
He chose the latter over the former and it served him well. Some of what he has learned includes:
- “When things are hard, shhh, be quiet, and watch what happens.”
- “It’s not that we shouldn’t pray for miracles, but when you don’t understand or don’t receive what you asked for, don’t let it shake your faith.”
- “We’re created for His glory, so if we go through something difficult, we can glorify Him in it.”
- “The peace that passes understanding should freak people out a bit because it’s too good to be true. It’s on the side of, ‘I trust You completely’.”
- “God may seem silent, but God’s Word is never silent.”
One other thing that aided him in his medical journey was a book titled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” by John Piper. It includes 10 bullet points on how to glorify God through the experience.
Lindskoog has memorized what are called “the five solas.” He explained, “The five solas state that Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.”
He was brought up in a Christian home in Northern California. He has always stayed active with exercise and continues it now. “On days when you feel good, get as much exercise as you can,” he said.
In the midst of hardship, take a lesson from Lindskoog and exercise those faith muscles as well.