New England Patriots offensive lineman Nate Solder’s life has been changed by cancer, not once, but twice. After successfully fighting testicular cancer himself, his infant son Hudson is fighting kidney cancer. Hudson was diagnosed when he was just three months old.
Solder has been marred to Lexi Allen since 2014. The 28-year-old Denver native was drafted by the Patriots with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He attended the University of Colorado and was on the Super Bowl XLIX-winning team.
Hudson and Lexi Solder were among those to take the field during the Patriots game Sunday, October 22, 2017, along with others who have battled cancer, including Tom Brady’s mother, former offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi and Alyssa Cannon, whose husband, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, fought cancer.
Solder told Michelle Tafoya, Sunday Night Football’s sideline reporter, that the Patriots Super Bowl victory against the Falcons was even more special, she said during the broadcast. “We can enjoy the highs as much as we feel the lows.” Hudson, now 2, has recently started chemotherapy again, Tafoya reported.
Here’s a look at Hudson’s battle with cancer, as well as his father’s:
1. Hudson Was Diagnosed With the Rare Wilms’ Tumor, Which Affects Children Under 5
Solder announced that Hudson was diagnosed with kidney cancer during a Joe Andruzzi Foundation event in 2015, ABC News reports. Hudson was just three months old when his parents were told that he has a rare Wilms’ tumor. They went public with Hudson’s fight because they wanted to raise awareness of the cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the Wilms’ tumor starts in the kidney and is named after the German doctor who first wrote about it inn 1899.
Although the tumor is very rare, nine out of 10 kidney cancers in children are Wilms’ tumors, the ACS notes. Dr. Johnathan Ross, chief of pediatric urology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, told ABC News that just 500 children in the U.S. are affected by the Wilms’ tumor. He explained that it’s very different from the kidney cancer adults can face.
“One of the good things about Wilms’ tumors… they’re much more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation” compared to adult cancer, Ross told ABC News.
2. Solder Says Hudson Is Doing Much Better, but Still Has Chemotherapy Treatments
Hudson started chemotherapy again in the Fall of 2017, according to NBC.
Ben Volin, the Patriots beat reporter, said Solder has recently missed some practices.
In a January 2017 interview with USA Today Sports, Solder said that Hudson is doing better, although he still faces challenges every day. His chemotherapy portal was removed since his tumors have stopped growing. He’s now in a “monitoring phase.”
Hudson’s diagnosis came at a personally tough time for Solder. The lineman learned about it just a week after a biceps injury ended his 2015 season.
“If you would have seen us at the time (of Hudson’s diagnosis), there was a lot of bewilderment. We didn’t feel like we belonged where we were,” Solder told USA Today. “We were in denial about the whole situation. 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.”
His head coach, Bill Belichick, respects Solder and how he cares for his young family. “Nate is just someone of the highest character,” Belichick told USA Today. “We all respect Nate for what he has done with Hudson, how he is always there for him. We understand there are times he has to miss something.”
3. Solder Has Been Allowed to Miss Team Meetings to Spend Time With His Son
While most players would be reprimanded for missing team meetings, Belichick and the Patriots staff have made exceptions for Solder because they understand he needs to spend time with his son, The Denver Post reported.
“When my son was diagnosed, it didn’t matter how many trophies I had won. It didn’t matter how much money I had,” Solder told his hometown Denver Post. “His health was the most important thing. So that’s taught me a lot of lessons about life. We’re so fortunate to play this game and I’ll never take it for granted.”
Solder said that the tumors will remain in his son for “quite a while,” but, again, he is doing “really well.”
“If you saw him, he would be running around here probably tearing everything up,” Solder told the Post.
Solder told the Boston Herald that his son’s cancer battle has given him perspective as he approaches the end of his Patriots contract.
“No, no, no,” Solder told the Herald when asked if he is thinking about the final year of his deal. “Everything I do is based on taking it one day at a time because God gave me this day and I’m so thankful for that.”
Hudson was at the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory, his father told the Boston Globe.
“Lexi went through a great effort to make sure that Hudson could be there on the field — probably a little after his bedtime — but to see him and be there with him kind of tied it all together,” Solder told the newspaper. “It was a tough previous year. He was diagnosed, I was out injured. This year I had a new appreciation for the game and being able to play and just the opportunity that we had to have him there was very special and I’ll never forget.”
4. Solder Discovered Hudson’s Tumor While Giving Him a Bath in October 2015
In an interview with Dennis and Callahan during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon in August 2016, Solder revealed that he discovered Hudson’s tumor while giving him a bath in October 2015. He felt a lump on Hudson’s side and they rushed him to Boston Children’s Medical Center for an ultrasound. That’s when his tumors were discovered.
Despite the chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks, Lexi told WEEI that they don’t seem to bother Hudson.
“He handles it amazingly. I mean, for him it’s almost like he doesn’t know any different,” Lexi told WEEI. “He’s fine as long as we give him his nausea meds. He’s pretty good to go. He has chemo on Tuesday, and we kind of joke in the family that by the weekend he’s ready to roll.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan Kraft donated $25,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in the Solders’ honor.
“I think you do sit back and reflect a lot of times, and it takes some difficult times to realize those things, as well. Nothing of what these parents and families have gone through I’ve experienced,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told WEEI of Solder. “I can only imagine how difficult that is, and again, I’m sure there’s a lot of positives that can come out of these things, as well. I know you guys had Nate on today, and Nate is one of those positive people that I know. It’s amazing what he and his family have gone through and the support that they’ve gotten for little Hudson and we’re right there with him.”
Solder has helped raise money for charities that help others fight cancer, including Ambassador Kids, which sells flower bouquets to support pediatric cancer research.
“The fact that they’ve taken such good care of Hudson and support Dana-Farber has shown has been unbelievable and we firmly believe they’re the best,” Solder told the Boston Globe in May 2017 at an event supporting the charity. “So anything we can do and whoever we can work with, whether it’s Stop & Shop or anyone else, to help the Jimmy Fund clinics, we’ll always do that.”
5. Solder Used to Blame Himself for His Son’s Cancer Because He Fought Testicular Cancer
In April 2014, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had one testicle removed annd doctors told him that it did not spread, ESPN reported in 2015. The news was a shock for Solder at the time, since no one in his family had cancer before.
Raising awareness for testicular cancer was Solder’s first cause. “It’s more common than people realize,” he told ESPN. “A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”
Although there was no connection between his cancer and his son’s, The Denver Post reports that Solder blamed Hudson’s cancer on himself.
“If you would have seen us at the time, (there was) a lot of bewilderment. We didn’t feel that we belonged where we were,” Solder told the Post. “We were probably in denial of the whole situation. There was plenty of crying, plenty of tears… So often we get caught up in our own pain and our own suffering and our own issues and I think through the grace of God he’s provided a new lens on life.”
Solder said he found God about 6 years ago, and has leaned on that faith.
“I came to the Lord about four years ago. And thank God that I did because that is what carried us through those moments when we were so weak. It was such a great metaphor for our first son going through such a trial just as God’s son went through his trial,” he told the Boston Globe. “So there were so many parallels that God was teaching us in our lives, and our faith gave us the joy and the courage to make it through and now our goal is to help other families that are going through similar circumstances.”