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Nathan Hayward: Fighting Cancer and Giving His Time to Delaware’s Nonprofits


State budget director for his cousin, Gov. Pete du Pont, and a lightning rod for controversy as secretary of transportation under Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, Nathan Hayward III, now 71, quit his cabinet post in late 2005 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“My wife, Marilyn, told me, ‘If you don’t retire now, you’ll die at your desk,’” he says. 

After surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, doctors told Hayward he’d be back in the hospital within five years. Sure enough, in early 2011, they found five new tumors in his spine, pelvis and lungs. 

His treatments continue today—and so does his work as president of the board of trustees of Longwood Gardens. He is also a board member for several other nonprofits. 

“I give as much time as I can,” Hayward says. “Your state of mind is incredibly important to your physical health. Those with a positive attitude should fare better.”

Hayward participates in support groups and encourages others to do the same. He builds networks of caring friends and family. “First and foremost,” he says, “do not mope. The disease is random. You can call me an unlucky number … but crawling into a hole, being unhappy or belligerent, doesn’t do us any good.”

If you knew you had only one year left, what would you do?

“I’d spend as much time as possible with my wife, Marilyn, and our two sons; give as much time and energy as I could to nonprofit organizations; and spend more time with close friends.”

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