Six Months Since Diagnosis, College Student Hears "You The Man!"
MARION, Iowa - As Nik Jiruska and Moleigh Ryther take in the Iowa-LSU game on New Year's Day, Nik is counting the days until his final chemotherapy treatment begins.
"It's five days, which ends up being about four hours of chemo each day," said Jiruska. "I have to be hooked up to fluids each day so that's why I have to stay as an in-patient."
Nik and Moleigh started dating three years ago, in September 2010, when they were in their senior years at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids.
Yet, a shade less than three years into their relationship, Nik noticed something very wrong with his left leg.
"I thought it was a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve," said Jiruska, 21. "I couldn't even walk on my leg."
Moleigh said the possibility of her boyfriend having cancer was "the furthest thing from my mind".
Ewing's sarcoma was the diagnosis for the malignant tumor buried deep within Nik's left hip. To battle this bone tumor, days of chemo treatments filled his summer days in 2013, with Moleigh by his side.
Instead of spending his fall with another round of finance and accounting classes, Nik's autumn centered around recovery after his August surgery to take the tumor out.
"I was originally going to try and take a couple of classes this semester," he said, noting that a different surgery in August meant he would be off the leg as often as possible.
Yet it's his girlfriend's role in these months that have also kept his spirits at a high level. Moleigh said she plans to be a nurse and that Nik's experience has only solidified that.
What she could not provide, from a medical standpoint, she was able to with her heart.
YouTube video link:
On Christmas Day, Moleigh showed Nik a video that she had spent weeks trying to piece together. The full, 48-minute work was trimmed to nine minutes for this YouTube video but it captures Nik's experience, from the diagnosis, to the chemo treatments, to losing his hair to having dozens of people offer one simple statement:
"You The Man!"
From friends, families and even higher ups at the university to actor Ashton Kutcher, it's all there to lift his spirits as he enters what he hopes is the final phase of his recovery.
"I've met a lot of people in my similar situation in my battle," said Nik. "I just want people to know that if you just keep a positive mental attitude and trust your care providers, you can beat it. It's possible. If you're experiencing any pain out of the ordinary, get it checked right away."
He stressed the importance of catching his disease early as Ewing's sarcoma can spread into the bone marrow in a rapid fashion.
Now past three years since they began dating, Moleigh sums up what they're experienced together.
"Most couples don't go through this until they've been together for decades. We've been together for three years. It's this super hard situation and we're still fairly immature."