Diamondbacks General Manager Mike Hazen was outside last May when his wife, Nicole, came out from the kitchen. Hazen saw her and knew something was wrong. Nicole was having a seizure, the first sign of what turned out to be a glioblastoma diagnosis.
Nicole, 44, has an aggressive, cancerous tumor in the front left portion of her brain. She has undergone surgery but still experiences symptoms. The family remains hopeful a treatment will prove effective.
While they prefer their private lives remain private, the Hazens decided to speak publicly about the diagnosis for the first time. Many around the game already know about it, Mike said, adding that with spring training set to begin it was as good a time as any to address the subject head-on rather than letting it potentially “take on a life of its own.”
“As resistant as we’ve been to sort of talk about it, we felt like we needed to at some point,” Mike said on Sunday. “We felt like this was an appropriate time to talk about it and then hopefully we’ll go back to our private approach to figuring out the best way to help Nicole.”
Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that can be difficult to treat, with patients having a typical life expectancy between one and two years.
Nicole underwent a battery of tests last year, including multiple MRIs, before a biopsy provided the definitive diagnosis in July. In August, doctors removed as much of the tumor as they could. She then underwent a six-week cycle of chemotherapy and radiation.
The Hazens, who have been in Arizona since Mike became the Diamondbacks GM in late 2016, have four sons between the ages of 10 and 15.
Not wanting to risk bringing COVID-19 into their home, Mike limited his time on road trips last season. Otherwise, he has been able to remain fully engaged in his role with the team.
“Given the state of the world this last year, working from home and being there for the kids and for Nicole and being able to do our jobs more remotely has sort of been a blessing in that regard,” he said. “As the world opens back up and things become less about that, we’ll have to see where we’re at and what’s best for Nicole. That’s going to take precedence over everything else.”
Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall released a statement through the team.
“Mike, Nicole and their boys are important members of our family, and we will continue providing total support during every step of the process,” the statement read. “These are the challenges in our lives’ journeys that put all other obstacles and concerns into true perspective. Mike will always do everything in his power to balance being a husband, father, general manager and caregiver, but we have built a baseball operations staff of depth and talent that will allow him any and all prioritizations and flexibility that he sees fit. This courageous battle is inspirational and the Hazens remain in our prayers.”
Mike said colleagues and friends throughout the sport have overwhelmed the family with their support. Though Nicole continues to experience seizures, the family is remaining positive about finding the right treatment.
“This is sort of an ongoing battle,” Hazen said. “A lot of times the first line of defense in some of these cases hasn’t always proven to be fruitful. There’s a lot of new therapies and drugs coming online all the time. She’ll be a candidate to be a part of those things and we’re hopeful that one of those is going to prove to be the answer that she’s been looking for.”