Type of Sarcoma: Leiomyosarcoma
Year of Diagnosis: 2013
My sister Nicole Anderson was very sick and had multiple health issues that turned out to be connected by one unruly problem. We all asked why she was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma in June of 2013. The fight of her life was about to start for her, our family and friends. But the reality of it was that it did happen and it needed to be dealt with.
It started out with a large grapefruit sized abdominal mass roughly five pounds in weight. It had to be removed during a six hour procedure, the longest wait of our lives, so we thought. Following the surgery she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy to prevent the spread of her cancer. The chemotherapy made her lose her hair and drained her emotionally, physically and mentally. Later that year she seemed to be coming back around and the word remission was spoken. She was growing stronger and healthier with every day and we all prayed she would continue to stay on that path. That joy of her being cancer free was short lived.
One year after her diagnosis, more spots were popping up on her lungs. They didn’t seem to be moving or growing so the doctors kept an eye on them with imaging during summer of 2014. After the initial few scans and trips every few months down to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the cancer was back in full force.
We could not believe that after all the preventative care that the cancer had come back. Days and weeks and months with illness passed due to the spots in her lungs. She was fainting at work and feeling tightness around her chest. Her team of doctors from Mayo Clinic met with Nicole, her mother, father, brother and close friend Rebecca. We learned that she now had fluid around the lining of her heart. It was exactly what we feared after we thought she was healthy: it was another mass.
It was on the lining of her heart, possibly the worst spot it could be, he mentioned. We went to the waiting room, sitting there quietly and tearing up, worrying about what was going to happen and how serious it was. We wanted to discuss what could be done about the mass, but were forced to wait because the fluid had to be drained before any decisions could be made.
After the fluid was drained, she restarted chemotherapy. She went to Mayo once a week, for 16 weeks, on a three week schedule. Week one she received one drug, week two she received a different drug and week three was a rest week. Week three was a mental break more than anything. It resulted in the mass shrinking from five to three centimeters, a great success thus far. She again lost her hair, causing more insecurity, fear and anxiety about the future. During the chemotherapy, she also underwent radiation to further shrink the mass. That brought on nausea and lightheadedness for her.
Around the beginning of 2015, while the masses on her lungs and the one on her heart were staying consistent, a mass on her liver newly appeared. It was the simplest one to get rid of with an ablation surgery.
As the cancer progressed, Nicole sought other therapies to give her a mental advantage. She began high doses of Vitamin-C infusions. She changed much of her diet. She cut out sugar and processed foods, while only eating organically grown foods. She drank special teas. All of this was to combat the cancer. She also sought out support groups to boost her morale and give her a stronger support system. Even with the cancer and the toll it was taking on Nicole, she continued to spend time with family and friends, work on and off, and even take some trips to Florida and Duluth.
In early 2016, her condition changed drastically. We never thought she could lose this battle. It brings tears to our eyes to think that we lost her. After all the appointments, chemotherapy rounds, radiation and mostly, stress and sleepless nights, it was too much to fight. Medicine, modern and holistic, were no match for this hostile, rapidly spreading cancer. Nicole was unable to outlive cancer, but she fought it hard. She may no longer be with us presently, but her spirit, stubbornness and strength live on.