ABINGDON, Md. — Each year more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, some doctors overlook or misdiagnose cancer because early symptoms are thought to be growing pains or other common injuries.
"No one expects a kid to have cancer when they're not feeling well or when something hurts and sometimes it is," said Michelle Urzynicok. Her life changed when her son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma. She said, "you think he’s an 11-year-old boy, extremely active. The logical conclusion is growling pain or mild sport injury.
After Nicholas' pain persisted and his gym teacher noticed him limping, that's when they saw a doctor and he was diagnosed. Nicholas had a tumor in his femur in his left leg and a tumor in his tibia in his right leg. He had one surgery to remove the tumors and replace the bones with titanium. Then he had another surgery to get rid of suspected tumors on his lungs. Thankfully, only one lung had one and the other was clear. Then he had a spinal chord injury and did six rounds of chemotherapy.
"The beginning was rough," said Nicholas. His mom added, "the beginning was really rough. Every time we turned around we were getting more devastating news."
Nicholas was diagnosed at the end of his fifth grade year, two days after his 11th birthday. He had to miss his entire sixth grade year because of chemo and surgeries. The one thing that got him through was video games, something his mom called an emotional life line since cancer can be isolating.
"It just feels normal. I can play and talk to my friends," said Nicholas.
After a very rough year and a half, he now only has one treatment a week and scans every 2-3 month. He's on crutches around the house and in a wheelchair at school. Something that could have been worse if it wasn't caught early.
"Follow your gut. If you feel like something is wrong with your child, you know your child better than anything else," said Michelle.
Nicholas continues rehab and once February hits, he'll spend even less time in the hospital. Michelle said she knew things were getting better when Nicholas and his older brother started fighting again. Michelle said the one silver lining of everything is that now they have a slower pace of life and spend more time together as a family.