Basketball is therapy for Nick Nelson and family.

The squeak of sneakers is soothing, and the sound of the ball ticking through the net washes everything else away.

The court is where Nick can show his mother, Lisa, how grateful he is for the hours spent shuttling him to summer camps and tournaments since he first learned to dribble a ball.

It's the place that helps Lisa forget for awhile that the cancer is back.

"It's definitely a motivator. It helps me focus completely on basketball," said Nick, a standout senior for Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page whose mother was re-diagnosed with breast cancer last October. "If it is the last game she will see, she'll think I'm good."

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Lisa, 49, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.

The cancer disappeared after surgery and chemotherapy.

With the scare behind the family, Nick blossomed into a force on the basketball court.

He was first brought up to the Spartans varsity in seventh grade and became a starter as an eighth-grader.

Nick, the youngest of three boys, has started 105 consecutive games for Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page. He's averaging 19.4 points and 9 rebounds in his final prep season.

The bond between Nick and Lisa was formed as mother carted son to daily practices and on long trips for various travelling teams.

Lisa was always there.

"Those two are very close," said Nick's father, Terry. "Very close."

So it was devastating when Lisa announced to the family the cancer had come back.

This time it spread throughout her body into the bones.

She was forced to have partial hip-replacement surgery in November and has been on chemo ever since.

Lisa said her last checkup showed a pair of cancer cells aggressively growing. But doctors are trying everything to win the fight against the disease.

"It's a day-to-day thing," said Lisa, who was an avid half-marathoner before her re-diagnosis. "We know that every day is important at this stage in the game. We just don't take anything for granted."

Lisa said she scheduled treatments so she could watch Nick play this season.

Every day is a struggle. But she remains committed to being in the stands.

She hasn't missed a game.

"It's my high," Lisa said. "The thing I look forward to every day, every week, is to watch him play. I love it."

Nick, a 6-foot-4 forward, has helped the Spartans to an 8-7 record.

He wears a pink wristband at all times to support his mother's fight against breast cancer, and he shaved his head when Lisa began losing her hair during chemo treatments.

"Good games or bad games, she says she's always proud of me," Nick said. "It doesn't matter if I do good or not. ... But if I start out bad, I start getting down on myself, it dawns on me that this could be the last game, so I turn it around."

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Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562