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Meet Our Hero, Nick

Jan 29, 2021 | Hero

HOMETOWN: HASTINGS, NE

DIAGNOSIS: GLIOBLASTOMA

DATE OF DIAGNOSIS: 2015

CURRENT STATUS: BECAME AN ANGEL IN 2024

 January 2015, Nick Herringer (pictured above with is mother, Tammy), who was then a freshman at Hastings High School, started complaining about severe headaches and extreme fatigue. Nick was diagnosed with migraine headaches and put on a steroid to help with the painful headaches and the rash that developed on the left side of his face. Once Nick had finished taking the steroid, his symptoms would return almost instantly. In late January, Nick started throwing up nonstop for hours, and went to the hospital for blood tests and returned home with nausea pills and pain meds. Nick’s condition worsened and he returned to the ER. After a CT scan, the ER doctor told the Herringer’s that there was a mass on Nick’s brain the size of an orange and sent him by ambulance to UNMC in Omaha.

In February 2015, Nick had surgery to remove the brain tumor. He was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma at the age of 14. He went through six weeks of daily radiation treatments followed by one year of chemotherapy. He finished treatments in May of 2016. Nick was then put on a schedule to scan every three months. In December of 2016, after a routine scan, the Herringer’s were told that Nick’s cancer was back, and he had his second craniotomy. Pathology results confirmed that there was no cancer, but instead necrosis or radiation scarring. He was told to go live his life and put back scans every three months.

In November of 2017, they were once again told there was a spot on the scan the doctors believed to be cancer. Nicholas was enrolled in a clinical trial in Colorado. He did five Immunotherapy treatments, but in February, a routine scan confirmed the tumor was continuing to grow. On March 8, 2018, Nick had his third craniotomy. Pathology confirmed grade 4 brain cancer once again. Nick endured six more weeks of daily radiation treatments along with chemotherapy. In July, Nick then enrolled in his 2nd clinical trial through the Children’s Oncology Group. For the next four months, Nick took 119 pills per week. Of those 119 pills, 56 of them were clinical trial drugs. The remaining 63 pills were used to combat side effects of the trial drugs.

Unfortunately, on November 30, 2018, Nick’s MRI showed tumor regrowth and he was immediately taken off the trial. During the month of December, Nick had been screened for five different clinical trials. Two CAR T Cell trials at Seattle Children’s, the Polio Vaccine trial at Duke, the Herpes Vaccine trial at Children’s of Alabama, and an immunotherapy trial at St. Jude’s. He was turned down for all five trials for various reasons.

In mid-January 2019, Nick enrolled in a T Cell trial at Children’s National in Washington, DC. Nick had the two blood draws to begin the T Cell trial in late January and early February and received the first infusion of his altered T Cells on April 2, 2019. Between the time that Nick had the two blood draws to start the T Cell trial and when he received his first infusion of T Cells, Nick’s scan images showed that all tumor nodules on both sides of the right and left frontal lobes were completely gone! This was amazing news especially since it had been just 26 days since Nick’s last scan and he had only taken 10 chemo pills and one chemo infusion in the time between the scans. The Herringer’s believe the only explanation of Nick’s scan result is the power of prayer and their strong reliance on God. Their faith also helped the Herringer’s in October 2019, when Nick and his father Jay were in a terrible car accident on their way to a Make-A-Wish fundraiser. Nick suffered breaks in his pelvis, a severely sprained ankle, and swelling and bruising on his brain. After his hospital stay and rehab, Nick regained his strength to face his 4th craniotomy in January 2020.

His MRI in April 2020 showed enhancement, so he began treatment again. After several months of chemotherapy, Nicks’ scans showed NED (no evidence of disease) both in August and Octobers of 2020. This was fantastic news. In late November 2020, Nick suffered a seizure and then again on New Year’s Day 2021. This prompted Nick’s medical team to move his MRI up. It showed a small area of disease progression, which was most likely the cause of Nick’s recent seizures. They considered beginning another round of chemotherapy, but held off as they learned more about a possible clinical trial for Nick. As it turned out, Nick did not qualify for the clinical trial, so he began a specific chemotherapy regimen that came back as a possible target to his tumor. A scan in March 2021 showed that Nick’s tumor had decreased in size. The plan was to continue his current treatment regimen. In late April, Nick and his family enjoyed the news of a stable scan. The Herringers celebrated the great news with a trip to Disney World!

In mid-May 2021, Nick suffered a seizure during their morning church service.  This was his first in over four months. Nick’s scan in late June 2021 was stable once again. He continued to take daily chemo pills to try to keep the tumor at bay in the hopes of stretching their scans from eight weeks to ten. His August and November 2021 scans were once again stable, which made five in a row! In April 2022, Nick began experiencing uncontrollable seizures and was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. A subsequent scan showed that Nick’s tumor had grown. He was then on the hunt for a clinical trial that might be able to help him. Duke, Mayo, Boston, MD Anderson, and St. Jude declined him for their trials. He was turned down by these institutions for various reasons like his tumor was too diffused/spread out, didn’t have the right mutations, or was simply the wrong kind of tumor. He continued to take the chemo pills in the interim. After weighing many options, Nick and his family opted to try alternative medicine, which isn’t as toxic as other options, and was one thing they hadn’t tried.

Unfortunately, in March of 2022, scans showed that Nick’s brain cancer was progressing, and in new areas of his brain. He suffered a grand mal seizure while taking a shower causing right-sided weakness, and fell a few days later thankfully with only minor injuries. He once again was back on radiation treatments to try to slow the tumor growth. After four weeks, his brain tumor was stable, but there was disease now present in his spine. Nick began a new chemotherapy regimen and awaited insurance approval to begin an immunotherapy drug as well.

After fighting courageously and facing every obstacle head-on for nine years, Nick passed away at home on May 3rd, 2024. Nick continued to fight and inspire those around him, and never once complained about his diagnosis. Nick had a very strong faith in God, and trusted him completely. The Herringers are passionate advocates for the disease in hopes that children diagnosed with brain cancer in the future will have safe, effective options to treat their brain tumors. 

Click here to read Nick’s obituary. 

To make a donation to fund child brain cancer research in memory of Nick, click the red donate button at the top of the page.