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Courage over Cancer

Mighty Marine finds comfort and care at the SBL Regional Cancer Center.

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As a former Marine, Nick Maxedon knows how to tough things out. But when an initial discomfort in his testicle gave way to unbearable shooting pain, he knew he needed to seek medical care.

The day had started normally. In early April, Nick and fiancé, Katrina Mixson, were enjoying family time when their dog jumped on him, triggering the testicular pain that quickly led a cancer diagnosis. Despite having only recently moved to Newman, Nick had heard about the excellent care Sarah Bush Lincoln provides, so he easily chose the SBL Emergency Department when it was clear he needed help urgently.

Once there, Nick was rushed to Diagnostic Imaging where the results of the CT scan showed a 5-centimeter tumor in his abdomen. The 34-year-old received a cancer diagnosis within two hours of walking through the Emergency Department’s doors. SBL staff scheduled Nick for an orchiectomy (removal of one or more testes) with Urologist David DiDomenico, DO, MD, for the next week. His first meeting with Medical Oncologist Kuppuswamy Jagarlamudi, MD, was also set for that week.

“If I hadn’t been in pain, I would never have known that something was wrong. I felt anxious because I didn’t know how serious my cancer was or what the doctors were going to say,” Nick recalled.

His fears melted away once he walked into the SBL Regional Cancer Center, where the staff made him feel welcomed and safe.

“I served eight years in the Marine Corps, so I understand what culture is. SBL is a special place; everyone from the receptionists to patient financial services to the nurses and the doctors are on the same page about doing their best to help you,” Nick insisted.

Dr. Jagarlamudi diagnosed him with stage 2 testicular seminoma, a trauma-instigated cancer. Nick was pleasantly caught off guard by how thorough Dr. Jagarlamudi’s treatment plan was – which included a predicted 90 percent recovery rate for Nick. Testicular cancer can impact fertility, so SBL staff advised him to visit a fertility clinic, where they stored his sperm in the event that chemotherapy inhibited his ability to have children. However, SBL medical staff anticipates that Nick will make a full recovery from chemotherapy within two to four years and be able to have children without the help of fertility experts.

“We haven’t had a chance to worry about the diagnosis or treatment because the doctors are so positive about their plans. They explain everything so clearly to us, too. It instills a confidence in you that’s hard to describe,” Nick remarked.

Shaken by the terrorist attack on 9/11, Nick joined the Marines promptly after high school graduation. Serving in the military for eight years shaped him into a mentally resilient person, which allowed him to cast depression and worry to the side throughout his treatment.

“I think going to war and writing my first will at 18 years old changed my perspective. I was prepared to die for my country. Accepting that and having that mindset helped me process going through chemotherapy,” Nick said.

Nick’s treatment plan includes completing “chemo cycles,” meaning he receives chemotherapy daily for a week before taking a break and repeating the process. On the day of Nick’s first cycle, treatment started later than expected but the SBL staff happily stayed late to accommodate him. That first impression set the tone for the rest of Nick and Katrina’s hospital visits.

“In a weird way, going to the hospital is uplifting for us,” Katrina said. “The infusion center is full of wonderful people who genuinely enjoy what they do. There is not a single person that has been less than amazing.”

Nick lost his hair, but not his strength or optimism, despite having received chemotherapy five days in a row for six hours a day for three cycles. He feels emboldened by his family’s support, that of fellow chemotherapy recipients and the SBL staff. Nick brought a different person each time he went to the infusion center, including his sisters, his grandparents and folks from his new “hometown.” On treatment days, he can be found chatting with everyone with whom he comes in contact.

“My diagnosis stinks, of course, but I would not want to be anywhere other than Sarah Bush Lincoln,” Nick said.

The cancer diagnosis sped up Nick and Katrina’s wedding date; they are getting married in September. While dealing with the unknown, Nick stays active by farming and helping to raise goats and chickens on Katrina’s grandfather’s farm.

Having grown up outside of Chicago, the work enables him to continue a long-held passion. “I grew up on a farm and missed giving animals the best life possible. Meeting Katrina’s grandparents and seeing their farm operation gave me the spark to get back into it,” Nick explained.

Learn more about the SBL Regional Cancer Center.