Nick Ureel died of testicular cancer at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, with family and friends surrounding him at his home. The 17-year-old fought bravely for 20 months, said his mother, Jennie.
What once was thought to be a back injury that prevented him from playing his junior football season at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley turned out to be much more serious for the lineman.
“His testicle had become the size of an orange, so we knew something was wrong,” Jennie Ureel said through tears Monday.
By the time Ureel was diagnosed, his cancer was at the frightful Stage 4.
Tumors sucked the life out of his body, which, when healthy, had about 300 pounds on its 5-foot-10 frame. Chemotherapy, surgery and other treatments couldn’t slow the disease. But Nick kept fighting, trying to be an inspiration to his team and others with cancer.
“The summer before his junior year, he was having a lot of back problems; nobody really thought much about it,” Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said. “He was at everything, but he started to miss some stuff. Then practice started in August of his junior year, and he didn’t come out. We were really surprised because he loved being on the team.
“They showed up the third day of practice, and Nick and his mom came up and said Nick was having a ton of back problems and he didn’t think he was going to be able to play that year.”
A week later, Ureel went to the hospital.
“We took him to the doctor, and they said, ‘Football injury,'” Jennie Ureel said. “We took him again, and they said it was more serious and maybe he should stop playing football because the injury could be permanent.
“On Sept. 14 of 2012, he had an appointment with a sports medicine doctor. But that morning, he was showering, and I was getting ready for work, and he bent over, just moaning and groaning, and I’m freaking out. And he turned and smiled and he said, ‘Mom, there’s something I didn’t tell you.’
“He said, right around the time the back pain started, one of his testicles was sore and painful.”
Within an hour of going to the hospital, he was diagnosed.
“Two weeks later, he started chemo for testicle cancer, and they expected him to be in remission and recover and everything would be good,” said Jennie.
But he wasn’t in remission, so Jennie and Nick went to Indiana and the IU Simon Cancer Center, where he met Lawrence Einhorn, the cancer doctor for cyclist Lance Armstrong. At one point, Nick spent 58 of 60 days in the hospital and lost 125 pounds.
“He was so sick, I thought there were nights where he wouldn’t make it through the night,” Jennie said.
As she fought to save her son’s life, Jennie Ureel also was dealing with a cancer-stricken mother, who died six days before Nick.
“I just want people to know how amazing he was,” Jennie said. “In December, we met this young lady who had this amazing little boy. He was smiling and happy and he was 3 years old. She came in one day while Nick was getting chemo, and she was frustrated because their family vehicle had broken down and she didn’t have a way to get Detroit to get her son treatment.
“Nick said, ‘What about my car? He wound up giving this family his Mustang. It was his only way to get away from us and hang out with friends. He gave this family his car because they needed it more than he did.”
Jennie had Nick cremated, but there will be a Mass at 9:30 a.m. May 10 at St. Paul of Tarsus.
“He never complained, he never had a bad thing to say about anybody, and even while he was going through this, he was an inspiration,” coach Merchant said.
Donations can be made to Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation, Rainbow Connection or Believe in Miracles.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.