Fighting with grace: Nicole Peterson inducted into West Fargo High School Hall of Fame as she takes on growth of tumor
Nicole Peterson, who has battled a brain tumor for more than 20 years was inducted into the West Fargo High School Association hall of fame as a teacher last week.
WEST FARGO — One day, when Braelyn and Camryn Peterson walk through the doors of West Fargo High School as students, they will walk by the legacy of their mom, Nicole Vetter Peterson, who was recently inducted into the West Fargo High School Hall of Fame of Outstanding Faculty.
The lifelong athlete, physical education teacher, wife and mother of two retired from teaching just last year after she and her family learned the brain tumor she has fought off for the past 20 years had finally taken up speed again and would be taking a tighter hold over her life in the near future.
Peterson has suffered from an Oligodendroglioma brain tumor and resulting focal seizures since 2001. In 2004, she had more than 90% of her tumor removed at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
This specific type of tumor is low-grade and slow growing, but it never stops growing. In 2014, Peterson underwent chemotherapy and radiation to treat it. She underwent a second round of radiation in 2019, along with a "tumor starving" immunotherapy drug called Avastin.
"We pretty much knew after she underwent the second radiation in the fall of 2019 there weren't any options after that. We just had to hope it would stay away and slow down the tumor," Nicole's husband, Trevor, said. "This summer, she just started having more weakness in her right leg and right arm and didn't feel good about going back and teaching phys ed. It prompted her to retire. "
Trevor said the last MRI showed a growth spurt of the tumor by about 25% in just four months.
"It's been about 20 years, and they say with the tumors the average life span is only about 10 years," Trevor said. "She's always outlasted expectations. We always knew it would result in the end for her. It finally happened. There is nothing else to slow it down."
After Nicole retired, her condition continued to deteriorate, and the Peterson family decided to begin working with Hospice of the Red River Valley to ensure they can give her anything she needs to remain comfortable.
Trevor said Nicole is still able to understand conversations, but her ability to speak started to diminish. Just a few weeks ago, Nicole could walk with help, but her mobility has become limited to primarily only with the help of a wheelchair.
While there are good days and bad days and her tumor may be affecting her movements, Nicole's spirits have stayed strong. Both Trevor and Nicole will soon receive their full COVID-19 vaccines, and they will be able to visit with family and friends more often.
The Petersons caught a break on Thursday, March 18, when the entire family was able to attend Nicole's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. There, hundreds of former colleagues and students were able to share how Nicole touched their lives.
"I feel so thankful that she is around and still doing well enough mentally that she can understand and appreciate all the wonderful comments and to understand the impact she made in so many people's lives," Trevor said. "I'm really very thankful and glad that she was able to be a part of it and appreciate it."
This isn't Nicole Peterson's first education accolade. Among many others, she was named named the North Dakota Society of Health and Physical Education Dance Teacher of the Year in 2018.
A Packer herself, Nicole was part of the state championship girls basketball team in 1993 and was a senior on the team that took second in the 1995 state championship.
Trevor said while she can get tired quickly, visits from their many friends and family and fellow West Fargoans have a noticeable impact on Nicole, whose eyes light up when guests arrive.
"Everyone has been so kind and helpful and generous," Trevor said. "It's really been wonderful to see all the help and support and love for Nikki. (When she has visitors,) she almost forgets about what is going on and she is able to be there and be in the moment and enjoy herself. We try not to overdo it, but it's been wonderful the last couple weeks to be around more family and friends. "
Trevor and family friends have set up a CaringBridge site for Nicole, which is updated regularly and offers a place for online donations to the family. The CaringBridge site can be found at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/nikkipeterson/journal .
Other ways to help the family can be found at:
- Bell Bank: Nicole Peterson Benefit Fund; 3100 13th Ave. S., Fargo.
- People can prepare meals for the Petersons through a meal train at https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/w1rgnq .
The couple have twin daughters, Braelyn and Camryn, 9. Braelyn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a 4-year-old in 2016.
"Nikki has battled and persevered through it with courage, determination and grace. Through it all, she's been an unbelievable wife, mom, daughter, friend, teacher and role model, enjoying life with her family and friends, despite too often feeling fatigued or downright exhausted, mentally and physically, due to her medications and the cumulative effects of her treatments," Trevor said.