As you all know Nick is a pretty private person, we have decided with the increase in support and requests for updates that we would start this page…
On December 15, 2015 Nick left work early and headed to the Owatonna Hospital Emergency Department with what he had thought was a pulled muscle in his back. While in the ED, they ordered a CT scan and were suspecting kidney stones. I arrived at the hospital around 3:30pm, about 15 minutes before the doctor walked in and gave us the news that would change our lives. We were told that Nick had a fairly large tumor on his right kidney that is known as Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer). The tumor had ruptured and they took him by ambulance to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Once he got to Rochester they did another scan with contrast dye and were able to confirm that it was in fact Renal Cell Carcinoma. We were also informed that they had seen a few spots on his lungs that were suspicious for metastasis. On December 17th Nick underwent a 5 ½ hour surgery to remove his right kidney, the tumor (12CM), his right adrenal gland and 17 lymph nodes. We were later notified that the frozen pathology test confirmed it was stage 4 Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma and the tumor was determined to be a grade 4 tumor (most aggressive type), It was also determined that the cancer had not spread to the adrenal gland and the lymph nodes were also clean. The doctors explained to us that Kidney Cancer is a rare cancer and even more rare for someone Nick’s age (34). We were also told that this type of kidney cancer does not respond to traditional treatments such as Chemo or Radiation.They also completed an MRI of his brain, on 12/19, to make sure the cancer had not spread there as well, and that scan came back clean. Nick spent the next 4 nights recovering in the hospital and was then able to come home. We were informed that Nick would have to recover completely from this surgery before they could do a biopsy on the spots in his lungs. At this point they had removed all of the “known” cancer and were not able to start any medication assistive treatments.
On January 15th, 2016 Nick started feeling very ill and began vomiting so we brought him to St. Mary’s ED in Rochester. After doing more scans they determined that Nick had a small bowel blockage which was a minor complication from the surgery. He was admitted to the hospital and had an NG tube for a couple of days which helped clear that blockage. He was able to come home after a 3 night stay.
January 28th he had his first follow-up with Medical Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. They did some new scans and determined that his belly and pelvis were clean and there was nothing to be worried about. The scans also showed that some of the spots in his lungs had gotten smaller, some had stayed the same and he now had 3 new spots in his left lung. The spots were all just shy of 1cm or smaller so they were not sure that they would be able to get a good enough sample during a biopsy. After some thought, Nick decided to wait another 6 weeks to see what would happen, in hopes that they too would only get smaller. The doctors also explained that his cancer cells had 5-10% sarcomatoid differentiation, which makes it even more aggressive and unpredictable.
On February 26th we took a vacation down to Arizona to see Nick’s grandparents. During our trip, Nick started experiencing intense muscle-like spasms on his right side that lasted a minute or two each time and this occurred about twice a day. Eventually, his right leg and arm started going numb when these spasms would occur, so we contacted our family doctor and she recommended we take him into the ER right away. Once in the Emergency Department of the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, they did scans of his abdomen and everything looked fine. We were sent home and told they were probably just muscle spasms. The very next day he only had one episode, so we thought it was getting better. The next morning, we headed off with the kids to see Sedona, AZ and go visit the Grand Canyon. Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon Nick had another episode of spasms in his stomach and tingling in the right arm and leg. During this episode his depth perception was off. He ended up having 4 episodes in the next 4 hours. We decided it was best at this time to head back to Rio Verde for the night and planned to go back to the ER in the morning. At 7:00am on Wednesday March 2nd I was awoken with Nick yelling my name and grabbing my arm. He stated seizing, so I ran to wake up his parents and his grandfather and we called 911. He had a grand mal seizure that had lasted roughly 10 minutes. He was taken back to Mayo hospital in Phoenix by ambulance. As soon as we hit the parking lot he had another seizure. They proceeded to give him some medications and sedated him so they could do some testing. He was admitted to the hospital so he could be monitored overnight. They started him on a high dosage anti-seizure medication and a steroid to reduce the swelling in his brain. By the end of the night Nick was back to his normal self and had his short term memory back. The next morning, we were told that the cancer had spread to his brain and that he has a tumor (approx. 1CM)on the upper left side of his brain with a lot of swelling. We were thankful to be able to leave that hospital around lunch time on Thursday and return to grandpa and grandma’s home. Almost immediately after returning to his grandparent’s home Nick, Braydn (his son), Lonny (his father)and Carol (his grandfather) were able to get in a few holes of golf before catching our flight back to Minnesota very early Friday morning.
Nick’s appointments that were scheduled for mid-March were moved up, with the assistance of the Phoenix, AZ and Rochester, MN medical teams. He had testing all day on Tuesday 3/8 and then met with his Neurosurgeon and Oncologist on Wednesday 3/9. He has decided to have a procedure called Radiosurgery, aka Gamma Knife, next Wednesday 3/16. This procedure consists of going in and zapping the tumor in his brain with a targeted high dosage of radiation. The procedure itself will last approximately 20 minutes, however the prep and recovery will take several hours, but he will get to come home the same day. He will have to remain on steroids for approximately 4 more weeks. Once he is completely healed from the procedure and no longer on steroids he can start an oral medication to tackle the spots in his lungs. The latest scans of his lungs show a couple of the spots in his lungs have doubled in size since his scans 5 weeks earlier (the largest now being about 2CM).
We will do our best to keep you all updated with information as we get it. The Oncologist was very blunt with us this week and told us that Nick will not be cured of this cancer. The best they can do is give him oral medications that will slow down the growth of the tumors in his lungs and help prevent any new ones that may come up. However, we choose NOT to accept that and will continue to do all we can to fight this ugly thing called “Renal Cell Carcinoma”!! Nick is in great spirits and has been so positive through-out all of this! He has been feeling great both physically and emotionally, you would never know that he is going through all of this. Please keep Nick in your prayers. We are grateful to be surrounded by such great people that have been supportive! To you we say “Thank you”!