Confronting cancer diagnosis, former Fargo school board member in a 'battle he's built for'
Brian Nelson went to his eye doctor before ultimately being diagnosed with Grade 4 Glioblastoma after surgery successfully removed the cancerous tumor.
FARGO — Like a ship on turbulent seas, Brian Nelson is facing treatment for a brain tumor as calmly as he helped govern Fargo Public Schools as a board member.
When board meetings would become argumentative, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, Nelson was always a voice of reason before he lost his bid for reelection last year.
Shortly before Christmas, Nelson, who is also known by the nicknames "Big Hawaiian," and "Scoop," noticed he was having trouble with his eyesight. He went to his eye doctor before ultimately being diagnosed with Grade 4 Glioblastoma after surgery successfully removed the cancerous tumor.
“It was very difficult news, it’s a tough cancer. We didn’t know what type it was, but it was confirmed after we got it out. I recovered extremely fast,” Nelson said.
Two days after surgery, he returned home where he’s recovering and undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments in Fargo. Friends of his have set up a funding page on Lend A Hand Up by the Dakota Medical Foundation to help with medical bills.
Nelson, now 57, retired about five years ago, but soon after became a superintendent for two public school districts: Fairmount Public School District and Rosholt Public School in South Dakota.
He has worked in the education system for about 40 years, with 27 years as a school superintendent.
“I’m not much for the bickering and fighting and I liked to follow the policies," Nelson said. "I always thought we did things in committee, that's where the conversations were had, and if you have concerns bring them up there, then bring them to board meetings and vote on it."
Always up front and honest about his thinking, Nelson said everything should be done in committee, where you can share your true feelings.
His illness is now keeping him at home, which allows him to spend more time around family, including his wife, 10 children and 12 grandchildren, at their lake home on Lake Lida near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.
“I’ve been cleared to exercise and do stuff, and I’m trying to eat healthy and stay away from sugar," Nelson said. "Oh, chocolate, on Valentine’s Day. I love chocolate, but my wife can eat it for me and I just kiss my wife. She’s sweet now."
Once recovered, he plans to get back into education, but of a different kind.
“I would like to teach some religious education at our Catholic church, volunteering. I want to do more and give back more," Nelson said, adding his wife is currently studying to become a mental health psychiatric nurse practitioner.
"She will be working with mental health, and I’m excited for this because she will be able to help a lot of people," he said.
Although Nelson is still undergoing treatment, he remains positive and in good spirits.
“Brian faces a battle he’s built for. Though given a limited prognosis, he’ll never accept that,” the Lend A Hand Up page stated.
“I have to be positive, just to try and beat this cancer and get better," Nelson said. "So much support. I am so blessed."