Guest blogs are some of my favorites to share with my Unravel family.. two reasons .. One being it’s always been so important to share my story.. her story.. our story. I have grown in so many ways just simply from sharing.
And second because we all (me especially) learn so much from hearing other people’s stories.. It helps us to know in such detail the needs in regards to childhood cancer families and research to support them.
I am so excited and honored to introduce you all to Nick.. an inspiration, a 5-year cancer survivor, and the kind of kid that makes all Mamas proud.
“I was a normal high school kid. That is, until my life was interrupted by cancer. It was my dream to play basketball in college and I had been working hard in pursuit of that dream. Everything changed when I was playing in an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournament in San Francisco during the summer before my senior year. I made a cut to the basket and got knocked to the ground. My vision was blurred momentarily and I felt nauseated, which led us all to believe that I had a concussion. After experiencing weeks of light and sound sensitivity and bouts of vomiting, we knew it more than a concussion.
After going for an MRI, I was informed that I had a mass on the right frontal side of my brain. My mom started crying and I was in shock. When my mom shared the news with my friends, they were devastated and it was hard to see them so upset. The plan for my life was interrupted. I had worked for years toward playing basketball in college and now it felt like those dreams had been erased.
After Dr. Grant did an 8-hour surgery at Stanford to remove the tumor, I thought I was in the clear to return to school and basketball. I didn’t understand the importance of the pathology reports that would follow a few weeks later. When we walked in to get the results, the vibes and energy in the room were not good. The doctors began explaining the severity of my cancer and treatment plans. After I said, “Wait, I am going to miss my senior year of high school? No basketball?,” the next few minutes were a blur and I started crying as I realized that my life was not going back to normal anytime soon. As a social worker showed me where I would be staying for treatment, the doctors told my parents the worst case scenario. At that time, they had misdiagnosed my brain cancer. They thought I had Gliomablastoma Mutliforme, which is usually fatal and the doctors told my parents I had 8-12 months to live. The car ride home was eerily quiet as my parents weren’t ready to share with me the full details of my diagnosis.
The next day, I decided to approach cancer like I would a solid opponent in basketball. After my diagnosis, I googled and tried to find another basketball player who had survived a brain tumor and returned to play the game in college. I couldn’t find anyone who had and I wanted to be the first person to accomplish this feat. When I am matched up against another great player, I step up and can hold my own against anyone. This is how I faced cancer! One of the things that I desperately wanted to get back to—basketball—had developed in me the mental fortitude to fight cancer.
Two weeks later, we received a new diagnosis of Ependymoma, a curable cancer. It felt like a miracle. It also felt emotionally confusing to think I was going to die and then soon after learning that surviving cancer was within my reach. From that moment on, I took the cancer journey day by day as if it was basketball practice by working to improve myself little by little.
Halfway through the season, I returned to the basketball court. Due to the chemotherapy, I wasn’t as strong as I had been, but this still was momentus for me. I went on to play basketball at Foothill College and it was incredible realizing my dream after my struggle with cancer.
My treatment experience is one of the reasons I want to give a voice to kids with cancer by getting involved with Unravel. Chemotherapy was utterly de-humanizing and, at times, lonely. I lost my sense of taste and feeling at the end of my fingertips. My weight dwindled to 115 lbs and I lost all the hair on the body. After 6 weeks of radiation and 3 rounds of intense chemotherapy, I was weak and exhausted. I had to miss holidays and other fun times with family and friends, because I was immunocompromised. I don’t want other kids to go through what I did. Kids deserve safer and more effective treatment options.
I’d like to be a symbol of hope for kids with cancer. In my lifetime, I would love to be part of finding cures for childhood cancers. My hope is that kids will not have to deal with the same issues I did and that their treatments will be much easier. I do not want a cancer diagnosis to rob them of their dreams and normal lives. “
Nick and his story of inspiration, will be highlighted in our 2020 Glitter Gala on November 14th. Be sure to secure your complimentary spot to this years incredible virtual event today!