A high school basketball team in Texas is proving the old adage, “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” true by rallying around a senior player diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Justin Nicholas, 18, a senior at Wakeland High School in Frisco, Texas, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in late December after discovering lumps on his body. Doctors found the cancerous tumors had spread to Nicholas’s lymph nodes, stomach and neck, forcing the four-year basketball player, who had been playing basketball up to a week before his Christmas Eve surgery, to cut his senior season short.
Nicholas’ teammates on the Wakeland varsity team responded by rallying to his aid, holding “pass the bucket” fundraising drives at the halftime of their home games and holding a “shoot-a-thon” to raise money to help defray his medical costs.
“The insurance is paying some of the costs but each time he goes into the hospital [for chemotherapy] it’s a five-day stay,” Nicholas’ mother, Gayla, told ABCNews.com “He just did a stem cell collection in case he needs a transplant in the future. We don’t even have any idea what the total is going to be.”
Nicholas will begin his fourth round of chemotherapy treatment next week. In between his treatments he’s been a fixture on the sidelines and last week he got the chance to shoot the last bucket of his high school basketball career.
The team honored Nicholas on its senior night Feb. 12, presenting him with a signed team poster, the game ball and allowing Nicholas to score the first basket of the game against Heritage High School.
“Justin never thought he’d get to play again so that meant a lot, that his coach did that for him,” Gayla Nicholas said, also noting that the opposing team, Heritage High, gave the family a $500 check, $100 of their own donations along with $400 raised by another local high school.
In all, Gayla Nicholas says, the basketball team and Wakeland High have raised almost $15,000 for Nicholas and his treatment. Friends of the family – which also includes Nicholas’s dad, Wayne, and brother, Drew – and the local Frisco community have also made donations and tributes on his Caring Bridge page.
“It has been overwhelming,” she said. “You never realize how much help you can receive from people. His high school and basketball team and coach have helped out in so many ways.”
Nicholas is being home-schooled for his final semester of high school and still planning to attend the University of Arkansas in the fall. After his fourth round of chemotherapy is completed early next month, doctors will do a full-body scan to see if his tumors are continuing to shrink and then decide on the next course of treatment.
“That’ll be a fork in the road where we have to make more decisions,” Gayla Nicholas said.
The generosity from his fellow teammates and the medical team working to get him well have already led Nicholas towards a major decision himself.
The student, once planning to major in sports marketing in college, is now leaning towards a career in nursing, his mother said.