Riding Through the Recovery Process

In April 2011 while in California racing the Sea Otter Classic, I had an unexpected crash racing the Dual Slalom finals that ended up changing my life. Following a minor concussion I was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. A routine blood test revealed that I had leukemia. I was immediately transferred to Stanford Children’s Hospital and after three days of further evaluation I was transferred and admitted to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. At BCCH I had a bone marrow biopsy and more testing and was officially diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with Ambiguous Lineage.

 

 

Immediately following diagnosis I began Chemotherapy. The chemo was the first stage of my treatment then later became preparation for the second stage. On August 9th, 2011, after months of chemotherapy and six sessions of total body irradiation I was ready for a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). The marrow was a 6/6 match from an anonymous 24-year-old male donor as no one in my family was a tissue match. The procedure itself was rather anti-climactic. A small bag containing the bone marrow was transfused though a central venous catheter implanted in my chest over the course of just an hour.  It was going to take a long time for my body to engraft the donor’s bone marrow, and in the meantime I would need hemoglobin and platelet transfusions, plus numerous other drugs and painkillers just to keep my body alive and my vital signs stable. One of the side-effects of the transplant was that I developed large soars throughout my mouth and throat, it felt like I had been chewing on glass for hours. This in conjunction with nausea, weakness and other flue like symptoms took a toll mentally and physically. I was put on an IV for all of my nutritional needs since eating was going to be impossible. On top of two IV lines for nutrition there were anti-nausea, pain meds, anti fungal, and anti bacterial drugs all running into my catheter. For the first couple weeks I was so drugged up that I don’t really remember what went on.

 

 

Slowly I started to become more lucid and aware as the days dragged on and I was gradually weaned from some of the meds. Going into isolation for such a long time was incapacitating for someone like myself who is used to being outdoors all day everyday. There wasn’t much I could do in my room other than watch television, use the Internet and sleep.  By Day 20 of isolation I was gaining a little bit of energy and started to use the spin bike that I had in my room. After 26 days of isolation I was finally able to leave my 8’x10’ specially ventilated and pressurized room. The next 5 days were the worst because I was starting to feel a bit better and doctors were starting to talk about when I would get out. The worst part about this was that the doctors never were able to give an exact date, only a vague guess. Finally after much anticipation on Day 31 I was sent home.

 

My first day out and rolling on my dirt jumper

I got home on the September 9th and nothing felt better than being able to get a full night sleep without being poked and prodded. As soon as I got home almost instantly I felt revived and refreshed. I was starting to eat more and more, every few days at home I seemed to be improving little by little. Although I haven’t been strong enough yet to get out and ride my bike or exercise much, it is enough to be at home resting, trying to eat normally, having an occasional visitor, surfing the net until gradually I can resume more normal activities. In the next few months, I hope to get back to the gym so I can begin to rebuild all that I’ve lost over the treatment.  My goals for the spring and beyond really depend on how far I come over the winter months. Ideally I’d like to be back racing at top form by mid-April but realistically it will be longer than that until I am in peak form again. The most important thing for me in my recovery will be the just get back on my bike and ride this winter and spring.

 

 

The latest installment on my recovery path just happened last week. Feeling more energetic, healthy and slowly gaining my strength back I made a trip out to Norco Headquarters. While I know I have a long way to go before I will be back on the racetrack the first step is getting back on a bike. The newest addition to my quiver of bikes is an all-new team spec Phaser. While the snow is starting to fall in my home of Whistler, I will be riding as much as I can in the Squamish trails this winter.

 

I want to thank the guys at Norco, friends, family, and my parents for all their support throughout the treatment period.

 

Cheers,

 

Nick.

 

22 thoughts on “Riding Through the Recovery Process

  1. Nic there are so many kids and teens who will read your story and derive hope from it. You have just raced the biggest race of your life…look for me on the sidelines as I cheer you on…

  2. It is so great to see you back on the saddle- where you belong!
    We look forward to hearing more about your ride to full recovery.
    Keep positive and Keep well.
    Rochelle, Tim, Will and JoJoxx

  3. Nick, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is truly inspiring and full of hope, life, and spirit – just what you are. You are an amazing person. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down my friend.

    Vicky
    Bangor, Maine
    2001 Norco Charger
    2006 Yamaha Venture

  4. Nick.
    You are a courageous young man. We admire you for the way you are meeting these severe challenges. We wish you all the very best for a great future.
    From John and Marcelle (friends of your grand father).

  5. I have never met a young man with such a positive attitude – I agree that this has probably been the toughest ride of your life and you did it with grit – the attitude, the determination and your future goals have put smiles on those that have rode this journey with you – wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you on the slopes and trails!

  6. Nick, You are a brave young man. We admire the way you are courageously facing this difficult period of your life. We are confident you have a great future.

    Best wishes, John and Marcelle.

  7. Nick ,
    like Ron says ” you are one tough b__tard ” , you are inspiring to many people and I am sure your will be telling your courages battle with cancer for a long time

  8. so happy for you nick!! your so talented and such a great guy, im proud to know you and your unbelievable story. way to fuck up cancer! hopefully see you soon, so glad to hear your well :)

  9. Hello! Nick, we are friends of your grand father Eric & Carmelle. We know them Halifax when we lived there and now we are living in Goa, India. I am sure when you tell them about this message, they will tell you more about us.
    Very inspired by your experience & positive attitude. Hoping you get stronger with every day that passes by and reach your goal. Take care and look after yourself.
    God Bless & keep you safe.

  10. Hi Nick
    You are truly an inspiriation. The battle you have fought with dignity and strength unimaginable by many is very eye opening. Thank you for sharing your recovery prosess with us all. Godspeed to you. Ride on to full recovery.!
    Heide, Al, Carli and Jesse

  11. I was diagnosed dec 19, 2010 with acute myelogenous leukemia inversion 16 and i went through INDUCTION and four CONSOLIDATIONS no transplant. I am riding a Cannondale rz one forty two. Kinda suddenly, today is the first day that I feel great and with even a clear head. If you ever ride in Montana I’d like to know about it!

    thanx for sharing

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