Mighty Blog

Jordy gets back on the ice after battling brain tumor

When 18-year-old Jordan “Jordy” Hansen talks about the big moments in his young life – hockey is usually involved. But one of the hockey memories that sticks isn’t about scoring a game-winning goal. It was at a tournament when he was 11 years old, and his mom noticed what turned out to be a symptom of a brain tumor.

Double vision

Jordy was hanging out with other players after a game when his mom, Gina, noticed he was shading his eyes from the lights.

“She came up and asked if anything was wrong. I said, ‘Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine.’ Even though I hadn’t been fine for about two weeks,” remembers Jordy.

Image of Jordy Hansen playing hockey and shooting a slapshot towards the goal

The family went out to eat after the game and Gina asked Jordy again what was wrong. She was especially concerned because Jordy had gone down on the ice and hit his head during a game a couple weeks earlier. He passed concussion tests but had been randomly throwing up and seemed a little off ever since. During the meal, Jordy tried to brush off his parents’ concern, but eventually fessed up – he was having double vision. Gina and dad, Stewart, agreed they had to pull their son from the tournament.

“I repeatedly thank God for that fall Jordy took during the game weeks earlier. It wasn’t causing his issues but without it, we likely would not have pursued things as hard as we did,” says Gina.

Photo of Jordy's oldest sister, Lauren, putting him in a playful headlock.
Jordy and his oldest sister, Lauren.

Tests discover tumor

A couple days later, Jordy was at the Children’s Minnesota concussion clinic. Gina had made the appointment because of the other symptoms her son was showing, before learning about his double vision. Once again, tests showed it wasn’t a concussion.

That’s when the scariest thing happened. Jordy was then asked to perform what he thought was a simple test of putting one foot in front of the other, but he couldn’t do it. His care team immediately scheduled an MRI to get a better look at what was going on. When the results came back, Jordy and his family found out devastating news – he had a brain tumor.

Shocked and scared, the family went directly to the Children’s Minnesota hospital in St. Paul where they met with Dr. Anne Bendel, director of the neuro-oncology program at Children’s Minnesota, to talk about the care plan for Jordy, which included a multidisciplinary team of kid experts.

“Dr. Bendel told us what to expect and was all-knowing about everything that was going on,” said Gina. “As a parent trying to soak it all in, I thought on several occasions, it is amazing that all these things are coming together. Things that I had no idea we would need. I could write a book on how amazing she is and how impactful it was to our entire journey.”

Team approach to care

Only days later, the neurosurgery team at Children’s Minnesota successfully removed the tumor, which was confirmed to be medulloblastoma, the most common malignant, or cancerous, brain tumor in children. But surgery was only the beginning of the tough journey ahead for Jordy.

He had six weeks of radiation therapy to destroy any remaining tumor cells, followed by four cycles of chemotherapy. He also had two years of physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) to help regain lost movement on the right side of his body.

Jordy and his sister Alex on the day the family moved her into her dorm at the University of Minnesota.
Jordy and his sister Alex.
Jordy and his parents, Gina and Stewart, at Senior Homecoming.

Jordy was hoping he could get back to hockey as soon as possible.

“A couple days after surgery, physical and occupational therapists come into my room. They asked me to throw a ball with my right hand. I thought, ‘This should be easy.’ But I couldn’t do it. At that moment I knew it would be a while before I got back on the ice,” says Jordy.

It wasn’t only Jordy’s motor skills that were impacted. His body’s development and growth were delayed. To manage the hormonal impact of the tumor and treatment, he began seeing Dr. Jennifer Abuzzahab, a Children’s Minnesota pediatric endocrinologist who is part of the comprehensive neuro-oncology care team. Jordy was evaluated for poor growth and slow pubertal changes. He started growth hormone therapy in 2019, to help his bone and height growth catch up to his peers.

Back on the ice

With determination and the care provided by The Kid Experts® at Children’s Minnesota, Jordy is in remission and back to playing hockey in the Minnesota Hockey Recreation League. The movement on the right side of his body is still not 100%, so he’s not at the level he’d like to be, but he’s competing and contributing. He’s a senior at Orono High School, on the golf team and manages the Boys Varsity hockey team this season.

“Jordy has been one of the hardest working patients I’ve ever worked with,” said Dr. Bendel. “He has done everything imaginable to try to gain back function, to be able to be as high level of competitor that he can be.”

Jordy’s hard work doesn’t stop at hockey. He is sharing his story to give back to Children’s Minnesota and help other patients like him get the same comprehensive level of care. To date, he’s raised about $11,000 for the cancer and blood disorders program at Children’s Minnesota.

“I couldn’t be where I am today without Dr. Bendel, all the other doctors, the nurses, the therapists, everyone on the care team,” said Jordy. “They helped me so much through this fight. It took a lot of hard work. But all the hard work is worth it in the end.”

Jordy and his friends standing together at a golf tournament. Left to to right: Tommy Lewin, Joey Mugaas, Rylan Schultz and Jordy.
Jordy and his friends at the Red Black Golf Tournament benefiting Children's Minnesota. Left to to right: Tommy Lewin, Joey Mugaas, Rylan Schultz and Jordy.