The following documents were written by Nick during the 14 months of his struggle against non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. For this reason, the following information has been posted directly from Nick’s original documents, unedited.
Here I am writing about my life and what I’m doing at the present moment. Presently I am a sophomore a Hofstra University and Division 1 Athlete. I am receiving an athletic scholarship for lacrosse to this university. I’m from the town of Ridley, PA just outside of Philadelphia. I have three brother’s; Pat, Dan, and Mike. I have two very loving and devoting parents Pat and Cheryl. And last but not least Sandy, the family dog.
My family is extremely close with one another and I consider myself blessed to have such a great support system. Along with my family is Jordan. She’s been with me since seventh grade and she’s considered apart of the family as well. She’s my heart, my one true love and I found her (actually she found me) when we were twelve. I can’t believe what we have accomplished over the years. Actually this coming October will be our seven year anniversary. So we graduated High School and we left for college. I went to Hofstra in New York and she went to Temple and Philadelphia.
The first year went smoothly. It was an adjustment but we saw each other a lot and we made it through. Just like the first year, the second was going just as well. So there I was back at school only this time happily rooming with my best friends Vinny, Worm (my little bro Mike), and Max. Fall Lacrosse was beginning and I was ready to start training. My knee was 100% now after banging it up last season and I was excited to begin this new year. We had tryouts for the walk on and morning practices, which are hell, and meetings the whole second week of school. So now were pretty caught up with my life as it goes on right now.
It was one of those great late September mornings, where it was cold enough to wear a jacket but just felt so good not to. I walked to math class, which out of all my classes was my second favorite, and sat down, in my chair. As the Professor walked in I noticed something unusual about his appearance. His zipper was open. I was pissing my pants inside but straight faced on the outside. This man is someone that I would refer to as a “big timer.” He is very “New York”, doesn’t remove his blue tooth from his ear, and is wearing a designer suit and tie. It was comical, he had no clue. As that class passed I became nervous because I had been waiting for results from a test that was taken last week that I was supposed to find out Tuesday. Well to my dismay Tuesday passed without a word or so I thought.
As I walked to English, only a 2 minute walk, I called my mother. She was extremely inquisitive about where I was and asking numerous miscellaneous questions. I figured she was just being a mom. So we hung up and went into class. As I took my seat in English, my favorite class this semester, I immediately reread the paper I was about to turn it in (first one of the year). After reading it I was confident that I had a great paper in my hands. I turned it in and felt great. I took my seat once again. That English class seemed to fly by because I was so interested in the material. As we dismissed and walked out the front doors and who do I see, Coach. He’s checking classes again as usual. The coaches check the classes to make sure we go but mostly its to find out who’s not there and how much running we are going to have at that afternoons practice.
Well we were having a meeting that afternoon to pick out the equipment for this up coming season. So I walked over to the stadium with coach for the meeting. Just as I was saying “see you downstairs”, he asked me to come upstairs to his office because he wanted to talk with me. As I opened the door to the office I saw my parents sitting in the room along with my two other coaches and a doctor. My results had come back, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that attacks the immune system. It was no shock to me about my results.
The week prier I had my adenoid removed because it was blocking my nasal passage. While the doctor was in there he found the tissue suspicious and recommended to run a biopsy. While I was waiting for the results I was having flash forwards as if my mind was trying to tell me what was going to happen. I saw myself in the hospital with a bald head and my girlfriend was sitting by the side of my bed. As the picture began to come clear I saw myself place an engagement ring on her finger. I flipped out! I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. My mother and father being the loving, caring parents felt that they had to tell me in person.
They had found out on Tuesday and refused to let the doctor call me. That Tuesday night, my brother Dan Instant messaged me and wrote, “I love you” then immediately signed off. He’s the crier of the family. Mr. Softy, I call him. So when I walked in and saw them I knew. I didn’t cry or get upset I just shook my head and said “OK.” I accepted this information with confidence. I explained to my family and my team and coaches that I’m not scared or nervous but excited to get started. I sat down with my mother, father and my brother Michael and we discussed what was going to be our game plan and whether or not I wanted t stay at school or come home. In the middle of our conversation the phone rang. My mother thought it was one of the doctors calling her back. It wasn’t, it actually was the aunt of our close friend Evan. She was calling to say Evan passed away that morning. He had bone cancer and they new he was terminal since 8th grade. He fought so hard and it just got to be too much. This was a shock to me and Michael. We didn’t know he was doing so badly. The last we heard he was stable. Michael lost it. I was more nervous about mike than my situation.
The coach and the team took care of him while I was home. So after that, I immediately called my girlfriend Jordan and told her the news. She was upset but remained strong and I told her I’ll see her in a couple hours. After thinking about what would be best I made my decision. It was to withdraw from the semester at Hofstra and come home. My coaches treated me so great. They actually had already figured out a plan for me to stay in school if I wanted to. But I knew it was going to be hard enough with the treatment and school would be way too much to handle. The coaches froze my scholarship along with my room; I was giving total reimbursement from financial aid and the school. Everything went smoothly and before I knew it the car was packed and I was on the New Jersey turnpike heading for Philly.
Once we finally got through the traffic and back to Ridley I knew I made the right choice in coming home. Once I walked through the front door the phone started ringing and didn’t stop all night. There was family and friends coming to visit all night long. Jordan was right by my side through it all and she has been handling the situation incredibly. It was amazing; there was so much support already. I knew by coming home I would see all my family and have a gigantic support system and I think that’s the biggest reason I came home. So now that I was home we weren’t sure what the next step was.
Doctors and Testing:
We talked to our family doctor and got the names of the best oncology doctors and the Philadelphia area. We were given a list of about five or six. It was such a hard decision for us. You really don’t know if you’re making the right decision. You kind of have to go worth your gut instinct and where you’re most comfortable. We chose two to work with; one doctor at the Pennsylvania Hospital Arthur Staddon and another at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) doctor Ann Meadows.
We went to CHOP first because they could see me as soon as I got down there, which was about twenty minutes. The first day was full of physicals, x-rays and questioning (more than I ever expected). It was official, I was at the doctor and he was talking to me about cancer in my body. I was shocked about the information and frightened but I had my family and Jordan to help me. Jordan decided the best thing to do would be read me a story like I was five and it was funny and made the whole situation less nerve racking. After fully examining me, they told me that I could have a mass in my chest that they cannot feel due to the sternum. The only way to see is an X-ray of the chest.
It was one of the scariest tests because if it’s positive, you are automatically in stage three possibly four on a scale from one to four (four being the worst.) About half an hour after the x-ray the doc came in and told me the news. It wasn’t in my chest and the scan was clear. I jumped up and picked him up and hugged that doctor so hard. Finally some good news! But the fun was just beginning. That day was over but the following days to come were still loaded with tests and more doctors. The next day consisted of more blood work, bone marrow aspiration, and spinal tap. All necessary to determine where the cancer is and how far along. I tell you this, after that procedure I couldn’t walk to three days. I was in the most pain I had ever been in before. On top of all that, my wisdom tooth acted up and needed to be pulled. I was a hurting pup.
The tests were over and I was officially diagnosed with Diffused Large B-Cell Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s one of the most common cancers found in men ages 18-25.
The treatment varies for every type of cancer. Some require chemotherapy other radiation and some a combination of both. Mine require chemotherapy. A form of chemo that was extremely minimal to others I’ve talked with. I had a seven hour session every two weeks and five days of steroids after treatment. My first treatment was very emotional and was filled with anxiety. But my nurse Linda really helped me out. She was a cancer survivor and walked me through every step.
For me, the chemo wasn’t that bad. It was the steroids that I couldn’t handle. After chemo I would come home and have a nice big dinner and go to the gym with my father. We’d go work out and I would bench almost the same amount I could when I was healthy. My dad was amazed. I just thought I was lucky. Since I always took care of my body and ate right and exercised, I was handling the chemo better than the average person. My blood level never dropped, I never needed a blood transfusion. So four cycles (two months) and I was feeling great.
My birthday sucked as did Thanksgiving but I was willing to have a couple shitty days to ensure I have a lot more years to live. It was time for scans again. I was sure the cancer was gone and I was going back to school and cancer was over. The scans came back and things look significantly better. I got rid of the spot under my right arm and the two spots in my neck but the nasal area was still there. This meant more chemo. The Doc added 4 more cycles. This sucked. I was not happy at all. I was getting sick of all the medicine and steroids already.
The steroids were getting so bad that I would gage or throw up every time I would even try to put them in my mouth. I hated the steroids. I would do everything in my power not to take them. By the time Christmas rolled around I started having trouble with everything. I didn’t want to go get chemo and didn’t want the steroids and now I came down with bronchitis. It just keeps getting better and better. So as for working out, it consisted of walking up and down the stairs in my house. I couldn’t shake the cold. I coughed for a month straight. Finally, I got some great medicine with oxicodone in it and that helped so much…
This is where Nick left off… February 2006.