Algonquin patient enjoys VIP experience at Bulls practice

Advocate Children’s patient Cole Nelson enjoyed an afternoon he will never forget on Tuesday, March 26, as he joined the Chicago Bulls at the Advocate Center for a private practice experience and VIP tour.

Cole, who was accompanied by his family and closest friends, turns 14 on Friday, March 29. The Bulls surprised him at the end of the tour with a birthday cake and gifts, which included custom-made Nike shoes, Bulls swag, signed jerseys for he and his friends and tickets to an upcoming game.

Cole, who lives in Algonquin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 6 years old. He underwent multiple brain surgeries followed by chemotherapy and was taking 16 pills a day in addition to shots. He developed sores from the chemo that were so severe that even drinking water was painful. He became skinny and needed a feeding tube.

This May will mark six years since Cole completed chemotherapy, but the damage remains. He still struggles with his memory and staying organized. But he’s back to doing what he loves — playing basketball, soccer and video games.

It all started one morning in 2017 when 6-year-old Cole ran into his mother Jasmine’s room complaining about a headache after having never complained about them before.

A few minutes later, he began to get sick. His family assumed he had a stomach bug, but he had no fever and seemed better as the day went on. The same headache symptoms were back the following day. Jasmine thought that he perhaps had a concussion from wrestling with his brother, so she made an appointment with his pediatrician. Cole passed all the neuro tests and was better by the afternoon.

The next day Cole kept complaining about headaches and his parents began to wonder if it was a brain tumor. After the family pediatrician ordered an emergency MRI, Jasmine’s suspicions were confirmed: Cole had a brain tumor.

“I remember my legs giving out when the doctor told me something was there,” said Jasmine, in the days leading up to his brain tumor diagnosis.

Though his family was already expecting the worst, they couldn’t believe what was happening to their son. At Advocate Children’s Hospital, they met with Dr. John Ruge and his team.

They were afraid the tumor was malignant and Cole quickly underwent surgery to stop the tumor’s growth. After a few weeks, the tumor was determined to be cancerous — an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT). He would need immediate surgery to remove it.

Cole’s family felt helpless. Jasmine and Cole’s father, Jason, say would have given anything to trade places with their son. To help him cope, they told him there was something “bad” in his brain that would be removed through surgery so he could be healthy again.

Once Cole recovered from surgery, he needed two ports placed for chemotherapy. But, unfortunately, an MRI revealed the tumor had grown in just two weeks, and he needed a second brain surgery, followed by chemo, which Cole handled “like a champ.”

Some days Cole would have chemo treatments in the morning and head to school that afternoon. He dealt with side effects that we countered with 16 pills a day and shots after chemo. He got bad sores from the radiation, was rail thin and needed a feeding tube, which he brought to school in a backpack.

“There were tears, but Cole smiled and had fun through it all,” Jasmine said. “His attitude helped our family get through each day. He even looked forward to going for treatments because his care team was amazing.

“If there are any families out there in a similar situation, I urge you to find the joy in the journey. Ask for help and accept the help people offer. Appreciate the small wins each day and never give up hope. Don’t be afraid to fall apart and vent to the ones who care. I thank God every day that my son is healthy and cancer free. I pray this continues. I focus on today as tomorrow is guaranteed for no one.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.