The most intimidating health conditions often carry no symptoms. Nicholas Tattersfield was an athletic 10-year-old boy who showed no signs of illness when his mother Leslie spied a lump at the base of his neck. Within two weeks he was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
His journey to overcome the condition literally spanned countries. When diagnosed in May 2008, the family lived in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, a municipality of about 1 million people west of Cancun. With quality healthcare lacking, his dad, Peter, quit his job as a factory manager and moved the family to Miami for Nicholas' cancer treatments and to be closer to Leslie's family. In August, Peter began a new job in Pennsylvania while Nicholas underwent three rounds of chemotherapy in Miami. Leslie and their three kids moved to Pennsylvania in September, with Nicholas resuming treatment in October, this time facing intense radiation.
Leslie accompanied Nicholas to treatments and doctors appointments while Peter posted updates on CaringBridge to virtually bring together family and friends for support. "Keeping the site active with postings was great therapy for me and a way to stay involved when I was away,"Peter says.
By mid-December, the Hodgkin's Lymphoma had been eradicated from Nicholas' body. The March 23, 2009, entry in his CaringBridge journal declared him "100% cancer free." If he continues to remain clean through a three-year monitoring phase, he will officially be in remission.
positive mental attitude
Nicholas and his family were carried through this journey by a positive mental attitude. Communicating with loved ones was paramount to sustaining it - and CaringBridge made it easy for the Tattersfield family to get positive feedback.
"CaringBridge was the glue that kept us together and kept our family and friends informed," Peter says, "without being a burden on our family. It would have been otherwise."
Leslie's sister, a nurse in Miami, introduced the family to CaringBridge. The Spanish language capability made it the best medium to share Nicholas' journey, both for the Tattersfield family and their friends in Mexico. Posts were mostly in English. However, Nicholas' guestbook is representative of the boy's bilingual supporters.
"CaringBridge played such a pivotal role for our family because our family and friends are very global. Having the ability to establish one point of reference and receive the responses had a profound impact on us," Peter says. "It showed us how loved and supported Nicholas was."
CaringBridge was an emotional buoy for Nicholas, as was his father, who claimed responsibility for keeping his son's spirits high. He made sure he felt supported, not victimized. To combat one of the toughest times - when Nicholas began losing his hair - Peter started the bald head club, which prompted 20 men from Mexico, Miami, Indiana and California to shave their heads in a show of solidarity.
"It was the first time you could visibly see that Nicholas was sick," Peter says. "Until he started losing his hair, he looked like a normal 10-year-old boy. We showed him how insignificant hair is in life."
The sports Nicholas loves - baseball and basketball - also provided an emotional boost. He met his favorite NBA player, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, on a respite trip that included a Minnesota Timberwolves game with his cousins.
That's a moment Nicholas will long remember. Yet it was his Hodgkin's Lymphoma experience that truly changed him. He opened his heart and mind to other children who were much sicker than he was during shared chemotherapy treatments. It gave Nicholas a new perspective on his own condition and life, in general.
As the Tattersfield family opened their hearts and lives with their CaringBridge community, so many more reciprocated while receiving their own fresh perspective on life.