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THON Dancer Celebrates 11½ Years Cancer-Free Sunday

Sunday was many things for Nick Mikolinis: his sixth THON, the culmination of four years of THON involvement, his last hours of THON as a student and dancer…but it was also something much, much bigger.

This past Sunday marked his 11-and-a-half-year anniversary of being cancer-free. 

Full disclosure: Mikolinis and I share a floor in our house. Although I barely knew him prior to August, I knew one thing about him: he lives and breathes THON. At first, I thought he was just an insanely involved student. It wasn’t until I had lived with him for a few months that I found out that he had survived cancer himself.

In July 2008, Mikolinis was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the left side of his neck. Only 10 years old at the time, he went through six weeks of chemotherapy. Late that September, he entered remission. 

“I saw how different orgs like Believe in Tomorrow, Make-a-Wish, and Casey Cares impacted my life, so I wanted to give back in pretty much any way that I could,” he said.

He remembers getting “the call,” eating Subway before going to chemo, and that a nurse came in to explain to his classmates what cancer was because he was wearing a hat. Other than that, Mikolinis said he was rather emotionless about it at the time.

Mikolin’s own battle with cancer inspired him to participate in his high school’s Mini THON, and eventually in Penn State THON. He spent his freshman and sophomore year with the Dancer Relations committee and his junior year as a member of the communications Committee. This year, Mikolinis was one of five general organization liaisons for the communications committee and the primary THON chair for the Alpha Epsilon Delta honor society. 

In addition to being a full-time student, he works at Mount Nittany Hospital as its chief scribe. With all his meetings and work behind the scenes, Mikolinis is no stranger to going without sleep. 

“With all those different perspectives, it’s nice to kind of like, complete a puzzle without any missing pieces,” said Mikolinis. 

Just over an hour into THON on Friday evening, Mikolinis already seemed a little nostalgic. 

“I am gonna miss it on Monday when I wake up and I don’t have a meeting on Monday night,” he said. “I still have some responsibilities, but it’s definitely different, and I kind of miss it a little bit already.”

Mikolinis said his favorite part of dancing were the interactions he got to have with other families on the floor.

“That’s something that is hard to do is [have] that many families in one area,” he said. “And just get to know other people’s stories and see how cancer impacted them.” 

Mikolinis’ mother Janice, who he said was a lot more emotional than him, spent almost all weekend in the stands supporting him, even in the middle of the night. 

“Very, very touching, very inspirational, very spiritual, just overwhelming what these kids do,” she said. 

Although Mikolinis will be graduating in May, this is not the end of his THON journey. He says he will take advantage of fundraising opportunities whenever he gets a chance. But above all, he will continue to spread the word.

“I’ll spread THON’s mission around wherever I am and just be like this is what it is, this is what it’s done for me,” he said. “Because then it’s just one more person that can spread THON’s mission.” 

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About the Author

Grace Carlisle

Grace is a junior majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a minor in Spanish. You know Remember the Titans? Yea, that's where she went to high school. She loves makeup, true crime, museums, watching sitcoms, and most importantly ~pasta~. She holds a firm belief that mayonnaise is the best condiment, and that anyone who doesn't like it is insane. Weirdly really good at making soups. Sushi enthusiast. Music taste ranges from Fleetwood Mac to Ariana Grande. Lover of old Kanye West. R.I.P. Mac Miller.

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