Nick Barnes defeats cancer

Published 3:13 pm Monday, January 24, 2011

By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist

Around Christmas in 2007, fourth-grader Nick Barnes showed his mom a knot on his right wrist. A trip to a local doctor didn’t find “anything to worry about.” But in February, his pediatrician did more tests and did not like what he saw.

He sent Nick to Children’s South for an MRI, CT scan and a biopsy.

The diagnosis was synovial sarcoma, and in May 2007 surgeon Herrick Seigle performed surgery.

This type of cancer attaches itself to the sheath that holds the muscle together. Usually it is in a hidden place and not easily detectable. Early detection and easy visibility on the wrist saved Nick’s life.

Between the hematology and oncology departments at Children’s Hospital downtown, Nick was scheduled for chemo every three weeks with a hospital stay from Wednesday through Saturday morning. He was to get 10 chemo treatments. Starting in May, he was to receive 25 rounds of radiation.

Almost immediately, Nick began to lose his hair.

Once in the classroom he was twiddling a hunk of hair, and it fell out in his hands.

He quickly tucked it in his desk. When I asked Nick if the chemo or radiation made him sick he replied, “Only once or twice the chemo made me a little sick, but mostly I just didn’t want to eat.”

Alabaster resident Nick Barnes, 12, was declared cancer-free in 2009 after a lengthy battle with the disease. (Special / Sandra Thames)

As a very picky eater, he now says that hot dogs are his favorite food. His favorite subject is math, and he is a member of the Thompson Middle School Math Team.

In band he plays bells, like the xylophone, and in downtime he enjoys gaming of all kinds. In fact, he hopes to become a game designer.

His choice for college, the University of Montevallo, is the alma mater of parents, Paul and Denise Barnes.

Nick said, “I’m not an outside kind of guy —reading, gaming, watching TV and staying hidden from my younger brother, Alex, 5 years old, and sister, Katy, 10 years old, are my major concerns.”

Nick said he thought being in the hospital was “pretty fun” with Dad there as his companion. He loved “room service” — such as milk, juice, snacks and ice cream. Some days he was happy and some sad. The scary emotions were kept to a minimum by his parents. They explained to him that his situation was serious but that he had a great team of doctors and would strictly adhere to treatment so as to maximize his chances for full recovery.

For more than one-and-a-half years, Nick was bald.

Treatments were finished in October 2008, and in the spring of 2009 Nicholas Barnes was declared cancer free. He has to go every six months for a MRI, CT scan and blood test at Children’s Clinic as part of his follow-up regimen.

Nick has been through a lot to be only 12 years old. He is quiet, unassuming, considerate, mannerly and respectful. Good luck in the future, Nick.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at