Still Fighting 8

Nicholas Hibbeler’s Story of Faith, Family and Cancer

Orchiectomy. Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection. Pneumonia. Chylous ascites.

With the exception of pneumonia, I’d never seen or heard these words until I heard Nicholas Hibbeler’s story.

A senior at Park Hill High School, Hibbeler was diagnosed with Stage 2 testicular cancer during a routine sports physical in 2013. He endured six rounds of chemotherapy and three surgeries to overcome his diagnoses.

It’s not the hardships of cancer that Hibbeler focuses on, though; it’s how he can make a difference in the lives of others through advocacy, fundraising and awareness.

“Since I was diagnosed, I haven’t taken anything for granted,” says Hibbeler. “I’ve seen and read about others who didn’t make it, so I plan to make the most of my life and to give something back in return.”

Hibbeler started the CHECK 2 testicular awareness campaign, through which he encourages male athletes to request a testicular examination during routine physicals. Hibbeler also served as spokesperson and fundraiser two Kick-Out Cancer soccer matches that raised nearly $9,000 for Sporting KC’s non-profit foundation, which helps children with cancer.

He’s become a survivor mentor through cancer support group Immerman’s Angels. He speaks regularly with a teen in Texas and a teen in Kansas City and reminds them that anything is possible with a positive and determined mindset.

“I’ve learned to share my feelings, good and bad, with close friends. It’s easier to deal with a cancer diagnosis, treatments, surgeries, and everything that goes with that with someone who has been through it; but it also helps to try to stay as normal as possible with friends who might be unsure or afraid of what to say,” says Hibbeler. “I’ve been inspired by Ray Saari, a soccer player from Oak Park High School who beat testicular cancer a couple of years before I did, and by Dom Cooks, who taught me to never take anything for granted and to make the most of each day.”

Hibbeler made the local news last year when, as a finalist in the USA Today’s Most Inspirational High School Athlete Contest, he gave up his spot to Cooks. Cooks lost his battle with brain cancer on the final day of voting.

Hibbeler’s dream has always been to be a professional soccer player. At the age of 13, he was selected to attend the U.S. Soccer National ID Camp and continued to play during his cancer treatment.

“It was the only time I could forget I had cancer,” he says. “The game I loved, my family, teammates, and coaches inspired me to keep fighting.”

Hibbeler focused on soccer and school through hospitalizations and treatments. He posted his first 4.0 semester during treatment and was named to U.S. Soccer’s U17 Boys Region II ODP Team a mere two months after his last medical procedure. He’s been honored by the Missouri House of Representatives and has been named a Sprint Community Champion by the Kansas City Sports Commission. This year he was named an AXA Achievement Scholarship Winner and Foot Locker Scholar Athlete, one of 20 high school students from across the country to earn the latter.

“Testicular cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in males ages 15-35,” says Hibbeler. “Cooks inspired me to create CHECK 2 and I recruited male athletes from many high school sports for the campaign so that we could grab everyone’s attention. With my educational outreach program, I hope to reach male students ages 13-18 through school presentations and by distributing information to all metro area high school athletic directors.”

Hibbeler will attend his first pick college, University of Wisconsin—Green Bay, next year where he will major in business communications and play soccer for the UWGB Phoenix.

Hibbeler’s advice to everyone is this: never give up.

"There will be good and bad times, but never doubt and never lose faith. Fighting through the tough times is always worth it in the end.”

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