Nolan is very energetic. He is happy, go-lucky. He is a jokester.
But suddenly…Nolan wasn’t being himself. He was quiet. He was moody. He had night sweats. He had a headache. He was constipated. He was vomiting.
Was it a sinus infection? Was it strep throat? Mono? Lyme disease?
Josh and Tina’s parent instinct said it was something serious.
“It was the start of a long journey,” said Josh, Nolan’s dad.
After months of dealing with common illness and taking common medication, Nolan and his parents, grandparents, and siblings, prepared for Halloween night—he was so excited for trick-or-treating. But a couple hours into the holiday event, Nolan said he didn’t feel well. He started vomiting.
“We packed, loaded the car, and were in Minneapolis within a couple hours,” Josh said.
The family visited Children’s Minnesota for further evaluation and testing. The scans revealed it was a sinus issue…but it was a tumor in his sinus. A biopsy confirmed the findings.
“It was a lot,” said Josh. “It was a lot for an eight-year-old and it was a lot for us.”
Doctors recommended an aggressive treatment plan: chemotherapy for 38 weeks—nearly 10 months. He would receive normal chemo every week and endure a one-month stretch at Mayo Clinic in Rochester for proton beam radiation therapy.
“Chemo was hard on him,” Josh said. “It was hard to watch.”
Josh described their time at Mayo as an “awesome miracle.”
“You hear about Rochester and Mayo, but you never think you or your family will need it,” said Josh. “It’s such a blessing.”
And for the duration of their time in Rochester, Nolan and his parents have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester. Josh and Tina assumed it would be weeks before they received a room in the House—they heard there was always a waiting list. But when they arrived and talked to a Mayo social worker, she said: “You will definitely have a room.”
Josh and Tina did not know the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester expanded.
The family was in less than 24 hours later.
“The House is incredible,” Josh said. “There is so much support for Nolan and our family. We are so lucky—it would have been such a challenge without it.”
The expanded Ronald McDonald House of Rochester has 70 guest rooms and many new community spaces and underground parking for families. It is the largest House in the state of Minnesota, 11th largest in the country and 17th largest in the world.
“I see the plaques; I take notice,” said Josh. “People and businesses donated rooms and supported my son and my family…
“I can’t describe it.”
The House was a place for the entire family. Nolan and his parents were in Rochester while his older siblings were hours away with his grandparents. But on weekends…the House was their home as well.
“The House is such an inviting atmosphere,” Josh said. “It is comfortable. We discussed renting an apartment or a house, but the House is the best environment for Nolan.
“It has definitely made a difference.”
Volunteers are a primary reason the House is a warm place. The House received 19,086 volunteer hours from 1,620 volunteers in 2019.
“House volunteers are amazing people,” said Josh. “They make you feel safe and give you peace. The smiles, care, connections—it all means so much.”
As his dad said…Nolan is on a long journey. The tumor is in a dangerous location. There is a 70 percent chance chemotherapy will clear it…but there is a 30-50 percent chance it will return within two years. And if it comes back…it will be even more dangerous.
“It’s all statistics,” Josh said.
For now, Nolan is going on with life and keeping the faith.
“Because the journey is not over,” said Josh.