On September 18th, 2017 Nikki suffered a seizure completely out of the blue while at work. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance and after a series of tests and scans, it was determined that she had mass in her brain about the size of a golf ball. Unfortunately due to lack of viable options and courses of treatment available in Las Vegas, Nikki’s husband John started calling experts across the country to find the best doctors in the nation to care for his wife. After multiple calls they were able to secure an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota on October 8th and Niki was promptly scheduled for brain surgery on Friday the 13th (good thing she’s not superstitious). The amazing surgeons at Mayo removed most of the tumor which was later identified as a grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma.
After surgery, Nikki initially had trouble speaking and some difficulty with her motor skills, but she has been getting a little better each day. She is almost back to normal within a month post-surgery. After follow-up appointments at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, it was determined that Nikki will need 42 days of chemotherapy and 5 days of radiation for 6 weeks. All of this treatment has to take place in Phoenix. Following that, Nikki will still have monthly doctor appointments and bi-monthly MRIs in Phoenix and 5 days of chemo for the next 6 months as well.
Who is Nikki?
Nikki is 31-years-old, born and raised in Las Vegas and currently works as a Veterinary Technician. The expression, “If you love your job, you never truly work a day in your life” applies to her. She loves animals and always enjoys being able to help and take care of them on a daily basis. She loves Halloween and even had a costume mandatory Halloween-themed wedding! She’s an avid sports fan, especially hockey (Blackhawks & Golden Knights), football (Seahawks) and baseball (White Sox via marriage). Nikki also has a great sense of humor, albeit it’s often a dark sense of humor, but that has served her and those close to her well at this time. It’s doubtful that anyone in history has had more fun with a cancerous brain tumor diagnosis than she has. Many more hours have been spent laughing than crying and her sense of humor has been a strength for those close to her. Highlights include faking post surgery amnesia to terrify her husband and at one point somehow convincing a nurse to tell her husband that she had died in the night when he returned to the hospital one morning. Possibly most importantly of all, Nikki is the mommy to two amazing small children and a rescue pitbull. At the time of her diagnosis, Nikki and her husband were also busy wrangling a 3-year old little girl and 8-month old baby boy while their dog was a day removed from surgery herself. The baby obviously doesn’t understand, but her little girl is doing an amazing job dealing with “mommy being sick”. The hardest part is that while Nikki will be getting treatment in Phoenix, John will have to stay in Las Vegas to work and they’re going to have to send their kids to Chicago to live with relatives the entire time. They had never been away from the baby overnight until the day of her initial seizure.
Luckily, insurance will cover the bulk of medical expenses. However, even with insurance, brain surgery and cancer treatment are not cheap. With deductibles and co-pays, Nikki and John are still looking at medical expenses of at least $10,000, but possibly closer to $12,000 or more for this year alone. That doesn’t include any of the costs of the associated travel from Las Vegas to Minneapolis to Rochester and back multiple times in addition to what is shaping up to be numerous road trips from Las Vegas to Phoenix, plus lodging and food for the extended stays as well. John and Nikki were already travel buffs, which has enabled them to cut as many corners and costs as possible, including free housing options provided by the American Cancer Society; however, over the next 3 years, total expenses for treatment, travel and housing are expected to exceed $30,000. Nikki has already missed 2 months of work, and will probably miss at least another 2, and likely more depending on how she responds to chemo and radiation. John has missed about 3 weeks of work and will probably miss at least another 3 this year before all is said and done, adding to the financial strain of this entire ordeal.
Where will the donated funds go?
Nikki and John are taking an all inclusive cruise around the world! Just kidding. The overwhelming majority of the funds will be going towards Nikki’s medical bills, helping her fight this incurable disease. After that, travel expenses will be addressed, along with similar related expenses. You can expect a small bit of money to go towards some wigs and hats as well, as Nikki will be shaving her head prior to treatment since she’s been advised that her hair will be falling out. If you google “anaplastic astrocytoma” you’ll see the prognosis is not typically very good, but Nikki was fortunate to have caught it relatively early and had a very successful surgery and is seeking an aggressive course of follow-up treatment, all of which should increase her life expectancy dramatically. Any unused funds will be saved for future treatment down the road, which is highly likely with her diagnosis. If anything is left, she’ll be donating the remaining funds to someone else fighting brain cancer or to an animal rescue organization.
Most importantly, thank you for taking the time for reading this and hopefully giving you a little knowledge about brain cancer and a very sincere thank you if you chose to donate to help Nikki in this fight, even $5 will help. So many people have already been amazing with their time and willingness to help in any way possible. A special, huge thank you to all the incredible staff at the Mayo Clinic that took such amazing care of Nikki throughout the entire process. Nikki is lucky to have such a great support system around her at this time.
If you or someone close to you is suffering from a major illness - please take away this piece of advice: Get second opinions and find the experts in the field of whatever ails you or those close to you. Had Nikki waited for the doctors in Las Vegas, she’d still be sitting around looking at her phone for a return call. The staff at The Mayo Clinic handled everything urgently and with care, and if everything goes according to plan, Nikki will have had numerous exams, brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and essentially be done with the bulk of her treatment before she was even scheduled to see her Las Vegas neurologist for her initial new patient consultation while still waiting for a return call from the Las Vegas neurosurgeon nearly 2 months later. Find and get treated by an expert!
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