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 first stage of my treatment. 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 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 sores throughout my mouth and throat, it felt like I had been chewing on glass for hours. This in conjunction with nausea, weakness and other flu-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 almost unbearable 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 I 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. Almost instantly I felt revived and refreshed. I was starting to eat more and more and 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 by mid-April but realistically it will be longer than that until I am in peak form. The most important thing for me in my recovery will be simply riding my bike this winter and spring.
The latest episode on my recovery path was 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.
It’s fantastic to see Nick back on his bike. If you’d like to wish him well post it below.