Because today I’m thinking of Niki.
September 11, 2013

Update as of Thursday evening: Niki did really great in surgery on Wednesday.  She ended up having her spleen, gallbladder, appendix, ovaries, uterus, a section of her large intestine and half of her stomach removed and her liver and abdominal cavity were scraped of the cancer.  The masses were removed as well.  The doctors believe they physically removed around 98% of the cancer and are expecting radiation and chemotherapy treatments to eradicate the rest.  Because the surgery was more extensive than originally anticipated, her recovery time in the hospital will likely take a couple weeks longer than we thought, but all in all we really could not have asked for a better situation.  Niki was conscious, coherent, and asking for visitors Thursday night.  I’ll probably see her Friday, something I’m really looking forward to.  A couple weeks ago when Niki was called in to her first surgery at last-minute, a bunch of us started to organize a support train to cover food, housecleaning, childcare, etc.  It was really bumpy.  I literally sent 200 text messages in three days just trying to keep the baby nursed and soothed for half a week (am apparently the most inefficient texter ever).  This time around we had more time to plan ahead.  We had a clearer idea of what needs would come up, we assigned tasks to each person to oversee, and the support train has gone much more smoothly.

Three weeks ago, a close friend of mine was told that she had a volleyball-sized mass in her abdomen obscuring her ovaries.  She was immediately sent to an oncologist, given a tentative diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and subjected to a number of blood panels and scans.

Two weeks ago, my friend was scheduled to have a surgery to address the monster within her.  The doctors went in laproscopically, quickly realized they were out of their depth, and pulled her out of surgery to schedule a different surgery with a team of specialists in a different hospital who would be better equipped to handle her care.  The cancer is not ovarian cancer as previously thought; it is a cancer of the appendix: pseudomyxoma peritonei, mucinous cystadenocarcinoma.

At four o’clock this morning, she went into surgery again.  This time, the surgery is expected to last at least three to five hours.  At that point, the doctors will be able to assess which organs are affected and to what degree and they will know whether or not they have the expertise required to move forward.  If they do not, they will stitch her up and make arrangements for a different team of specialists.  If they do, the surgery will move forward and will be expected to last an additional ten to sixteen hours.  There are is so much that will remain unknown until this surgery is over.

Today, my family is thinking about her.  We are thinking about her three young children as they navigate this difficult and confusing transition.  We are thinking about her parents as they wait for answers.  We are thinking about her husband.  About her siblings.  About her friends and relatives.

I wanted to write something witty and charming and funny today, but instead today feels like a day of reflection and hope and empathy.

Today is the day that so many people I know are thinking and praying and whispering.  COME ON, NIKI.  YOU CAN DO IT!  LET’S KICK SOME CANCER ASS!  And if you have a spare moment, I’d appreciate it if you could send a little goodwill her direction too.

** There is also a fundraising site set up to help her family replace lost income while her husband is on family medical leave and to help them cover medical bills that arise during this time.  It can be found by clicking this link.  And there is a support page on Facebook as well that you are welcome to join.  You can find it by clicking here.

Afternoon update: they ARE going through with the surgery, which is just unbelievably good news.  Niki and her family will know more about the road they will be traveling moving forward in about ten or so hours.

Next morning update: the surgery is complete.  Niki stayed stable the entire time.  It was a little more extensive a surgery than expected, so her recovery could be a little longer, but the good news is that they think they got all of it (or damned near close).  Such fantastic news!!

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  1. By on September 11, 2013

    I have always enjoyed your blog but don’t take the time often enough to visit it.  I don’t know why I you were on my mind today.  Now I know.  As, unfortunately, experienced similar problems with 2 of my closest friends I can empathize with you.  I hope your friend gets healthy and stays positive.  I will keep her in my prayers.

  2. By on September 11, 2013

    Thank you so much, Aunt Ann!

  3. By amanda on September 12, 2013

    Your friend has been on my mind and i wanted to ask you to please give us updates. Prayers are being said for her!

  4. By sarah russell on September 12, 2013

    Praying. How terrifying

  5. By on September 14, 2013

    Longtime reader, first time commenter—thank you for sharing Niki’s story and allowing us to send prayers and positive thoughts her way. I watched my mom fight a rare, hard-to-treat cancer while trying to care for her five children; I know what a godsend your support must be. Be sure to take care of yourself, too!

  6. By gretchen from lifenut on September 16, 2013

    What an incredible update. It’s astonishing what they can do, and I hope this is the beginning of a strong recovery ahead.

    When I had surgery, some people used this (I think, might have been another similar service) to organize meals:

    You can create a calendar, share food restrictions, send it to your contact directory.

  7. By tara pollard pakosta on October 23, 2013

    I am really sorry your friend is going through this. My heart goes out to her. Last summer my husband was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor where most aren’t expected to live longer than 8-14 months . He is 14 months out and doing okay, not great, but okay….cancer sucks. it’s a hard battle, it brings you to your knees, but it also brings so much good from so many people…..

    xoxo love, tara





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