ST. PAUL, Minn. – This is a good Tuesday for Nate Solder.
It’s good for the obvious reason: he’s here with the New England Patriots, getting ready for another Super Bowl.
It’s even better for a quieter reason: his son gets the day off from chemotherapy treatments.
Hudson Solder, 2, was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer when he was 3 months old. It was devastating to Solder, who himself battled testicular cancer, and to his wife, Lexi. It was Nate who discovered a lump on Hudson’s side when he was giving his baby a bath in 2015.
The good news was that Hudson’s form of cancer is often responsive to treatment. But that has meant frequent trips into Boston for chemo. The tumors shrank in the first round of therapy but they have been resilient, which doctors said wasn’t unlikely. The Solders chose Tuesdays for chemo for a simple reason.
“We scheduled it that way because it’s my off day,” Solder said Monday night. “So I could be there.”
That means a so-called recovery day for the Patriots’ offensive lineman is far more stressful than any workday. It’s hard for a parent to see a child withstand a simple flu shot; the Solders have watched little Hudson get a port inserted. They have to wear masks when treatment is delivered.
“We were in denial about the whole situation,” Solder told USA Today last year. “There was plenty of crying, plenty of tears. You don’t think straight. I thought that I had somehow screwed up this poor, innocent child, and that I had somehow messed up.”
It’s quite the opposite, as Solder has put Hudson first to the point of missing some practice days to help out. Even on the weeks when Hudson’s schedule matches the Pats’, it means Tuesdays consist of a full-day trip to the Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston and then a return home to stretch and watch film, all while making sure Hudson and his baby sister Charlie are doing OK. The commute is difficult, as Hudson is old enough to know what the long car rides mean, and traffic can make the wait even longer. It’s an arduous day for everyone, and then Wednesday is the most grueling practice Solder has all week.
Still there is faith in a better future. Hudson’s disease is rare, so there’s not much of a blueprint, but the care is excellent and the progress is evident.
“He’s doing really well,” Solder said Monday. “All of his scans have been headed in the right direction. We’re still doing chemo but everything looks really good.”
Solder speaks openly about his Christianity and it soothes him even as he worries. It also helps to see Hudson and Charlie playing and getting along.
“They love each other,” Solder said. “They get to spend all day together. When one of them is sad, the other one makes them happy.”
Then there’s the opportunity to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, which is always difficult to imagine but important to discuss. Solder is not simply Tom Brady’s blocker; he’s fighting a battle that a lot of football fans can relate to. The toughest days are Tuesdays, but he helps the fight on Sundays too; Pats fans are getting to know him as well as what his family is going through.
Next Tuesday will be another challenging day, no matter what happens Sunday against the Eagles. But between the Super Bowl and the cautious optimism about a brave little boy, 2018 has a chance to be a very good year.
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