Nick Thomas just competed in his first triathlon. Nine years ago, he faced an even more daunting opponent.
In early 2000, Nick Thomas was a healthy 19-year-old with his sights set on the Army. Six months later, his world and his plans turned upside down.
He’d been having some difficulty breathing, but didn’t think much about it. That is, until he passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed he had Hodgkin’s disease.
“It was such a shock,” he recalls. “When you’re 19, you think you’re invincible.” Still, Nick says, any self pity vanished when he saw the other patients - many of them much younger - in the cancer program at Cincinnati Children’s. “I never really felt sorry for myself after meeting those kids,” he says. “It would have done them an injustice.”
On July 5, 2000, Nick began the first of six cycles of chemotherapy and more than 40 radiation treatments. Despite his difficult treatment, Nick says he got a great deal out of the experience.
“It’s an amazing hospital,” he says. “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been changed by being at Cincinnati Children’s.”
Life After Cancer
In 2005, Nick officially became a cancer survivor and began attending the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Cancer Survivor Center at Cincinnati Children’s.
“I’m proud to be part of the ATP clinic,” says Nick. “They keep track of you after treatments and provide great information on what to expect and what to look for.”
He adds that the personal support and encouragement he gets from clinic staff really makes a difference.
A few years ago, Nick mentioned to his case worker Judy Correll, RN, CNP, that he was again considering the Army.
“Within 24 hours, Judy had typed up my entire medical history and had it ready for me to submit,” he says.
Nick in training for the marathon portion of the Philadelphia Triathlon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Testing the Limits
More recently, although he could barely run a mile and had never biked or swum, Nick announced his plans to enter the Philadelphia Triathlon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Judy was the first to make a donation. “That meant a lot,” Nick says. “It really helped me stick with it.”
Her support – and Nick’s determination – worked. Nine years from the day he received his diagnosis, Nick successfully completed his first triathlon.
Nick Thomas, a cancer survivor since 2005, is a member of the ATP Cancer Survivor Center at Cincinnati Children’s, where he has annual checkups.
At last year’s Tennis Masters Tournament, a group from the clinic attended a seminar nearby. While he learned a lot, Nick says what really stuck with him was the camaraderie.
“Most people don’t understand what you go through with cancer,” he explains. “Your parents and friends try, but they really can’t know what it was like.”Nick says it put him at ease to share his experiences with fellow survivors, who understood his struggles first-hand. “It’s like you’re all in a fraternity together,” he says.
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