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Pounding the pavement to say thanks

Wednesday 07 July 2021

When four members of the Nickelson family lace up their joggers for this year's Bridge to Brisbane, they will do so to raise funds for the woman they credit with helping keep Francis alive, PA Hospital based neurosurgeon Sarah Olson.

Francis who was diagnosed with a grade 4 Glioblastoma in 2020, will be joined by wife Karen and daughters Madeline and Rebekah for the annual fun run on 29 August, as they seek to raise vital funds for Associate Professor Olson's brain cancer research.

Karen, Francis, Madeline, Thomas and Rebekah Nickelson

The family's gratitude runs deep for A/Prof Olson, as the neurosurgeon rushed Francis into surgery on a weekend following his diagnosis, a decision which may have saved his life and at minimum given him much more precious time with his loved ones.

Francis, who is currently well enough to undertake the fun run after undergoing surgery led by A/Prof Olson, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, said the first signs of something wrong was a strange headache.

"I have headaches every now and then, which I just put down to work pressure, end of financial year and deadlines. One day I woke up and the headache felt different, and I said to Karen I am going to go to the doctors and not go to work," he said.

"I went to the doctor, and she thought it might be this or that, so we got a head CT that afternoon. I went to see the doctor the next morning to get the results and that is when I found out it was a brain tumour.

"My GP phoned Sarah while I was there and she said can I be at the Hospital that afternoon, it was the worst you can get, grade 4, and that is why they had to do it so quick."

The Glioblastoma was not Francis' first cancer journey, having been treated for testicular cancer at the PA Hospital in in 1996.

With Francis now 12 months out from his brain surgery and with his scans currently clear, the family wanted to give back to A/Prof Olson and her work, not only as a thank you but to advance brain cancer research in the hope that another family may not be faced with the same scary diagnosis.

"I got the letter to say she wants me to join her in the walk, I could hardly say no because she just saved my life, so I am happy to do it, it is outside in the fresh air and it's exercise so it will be good for me," Francis said.

"Sarah brought her whole team together on a Saturday morning to operate on Francis," Karen said.

"She has a family; she has children, and she knows what it's like to have a family and to be busy and not have much spare time and we are incredibly grateful that she worked so quickly and brought everyone together so Francis could have the best possible future.

"With something like Glioblastoma, the prognosis is terrible, the stats haven't really changed in 30 years and the only way anything is going to change is for money to be available for research.

"We don't want anyone to go through what we have been through but hopefully if people can get the word out and share the links that this is what we're raising funds for it will help.

"I think any charities are a worthy cause but with Glioblastoma there has been no change for so long, it is vital that people support this brain tumor research."

You can help support the Nickelson family to hit their fundraising aims, and assist in funding brain cancer research by donating here.

Thinking of competing yourself? Fundraise for PA Research Foundation here.