20-Year-Old Hockey Player Overcomes Leukemia

By Amy McSweeney - January 16, 2024

William “Reed” Nichols was living the dream. He was 20 and playing hockey in Vancouver and New York with plans to move to Fort Myers and play at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018. Instead of lacing up his skates that year, his world shifted dramatically, and he was lacing up a hospital gown.

Just before Nichols’ 21st birthday, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His goal then shifted to simply surviving.

After a routine checkup, my doctor saw my white blood cell count was extremely abnormal and sent me to get further tests done. Within a few hours of more in-depth tests, I was informed I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” Nichols said.

Diagnosed at 20, Nichols was given the option to go with a pediatric or adult protocol. After seeing the numbers, he picked the pediatric protocol. A month after finishing the chemo and radiation regimen, unfortunately he relapsed. He was transferred to Moffitt Cancer Center to undergo the adult protocol with Dr. Michael Nieder. Starting over, this time with chimeric antigen receptor therapy, or CAR-T, he relapsed again after a month. His last option was a bone marrow transplant, which he underwent in early November of 2019. He has been cancer free ever since.

Reed Nichols and his family watch a recent Tampa Bay Lightning morning practice.
Reed Nichols and his family watch a recent Tampa Bay Lightning morning practice.

I feel like seeing other kids as young as just a couple years old made me a little tougher. I never liked needles but if a 3-year-old could do it, then I felt as if I should be able to. It still amazes me how those children fight so hard and how tough they are. There were a lot of days where I did the absolute minimum to give my body the rest it needed,” Nichols said.

Hockey has never stopped being a part of Nichols’ life. He recently volunteered his time with a peewee hockey league and is an avid Tampa Bay Lightning fan. The Lightning recently invited him and his family to a morning skate where they were able to watch the team warm up before a game at Amalie Arena, practice usually reserved for media and Lightning employees.

Today, a full-time real estate agent, he recently married his high school sweetheart and became an uncle. Life is beyond what he thought it could be just six short hockey seasons ago.


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