Sarcoma Story: Nick Manzoni

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Type of Sarcoma: Ewing’s sarcoma
Date of Diagnosis: 2011
Location: calf

In June of 2011, I was playing in a State Cup semi-final soccer game. As the game came to an end and I headed to the car, I began to experience a pain in my right calf. Within a few days, I discovered that I had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer that had taken the form of a tumor in my right calf. This is my story.

Within four to five days I started treatment–four months of chemo, one month off during which tumor removal surgery would take place, and four more months of chemo. All in all, a nine-month treatment plan with three-day and five-day stays in what was then called the Amplatz Hospital.

I was lucky, as my complications and deviations from the treatment path were minimal. It was a bit shocking however, to learn that I would be more or less bed-ridden for three and five-day stints. However, having a strong support system of family, friends, and faith, made the experience as tolerable as chemo can be. Finding something to look forward to, even if it is something trivial, was very helpful in the mental battle that accompanied long hospital visits.

My personal frustrations mainly stemmed from missing my senior year of soccer. It was the year we had been anticipating for a long time, and having it pulled from underneath me was certainly a heavy blow. It helped to focus on the positive things that took place as a result of my sickness–the things that otherwise would not have happened. Even with that in mind, well, sometimes things like that just suck.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a positive attitude, and my doctors continually reiterated this during my appointments. Also, identifying things that otherwise would not have taken place and appreciating those things is something that helped me. Public speaking opportunities, introductions with professional athletes, and most importantly, the opportunity to share my story and give others hope, were all things that would not have taken place if I had not been diagnosed.

Of course no one wants to be the “kid with cancer”, so I told myself, be the kid who beat cancer and played Division 1 soccer. Whatever it is that you do, find motivation in the idea that you can inspire others as the “kid who beat cancer and is an artist, a doctor, an athlete, etc.” After all, the only thing cooler than being any of those things is achieving them against the odds.

I am 24 years old now, and I was fortunate to play four years of Division 1 soccer during my time at Drake University. In 2016, I received a grant from the University to start my own company, SportsLab360, which I currently run. Diagnosis can be scary, but stay positive, and use the disease as something that motivates you to be the “kid who beat cancer who now _____ (insert your passion here)”.

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