Nine years have passed since my sister and best friend, Nikki, passed away from metastasized lung cancer. She was diagnosed with Carcinosarcoma, so rare that MD Anderson did not have a team for this type of cancer. She was only 38 years old, full of life, at the top of her career, with too many friends to count.
She had seen a billboard each day as she drove to work for the $50 heart scans and her gut was telling to go get checked out.
Her heart results were good, but the scan also picked up two masses in her right lung. After consultations, chemotherapy, a bout with sepsis, surgeries, indescribable pain and radiation, Nikki’s journey on earth ended after seven months, and my struggles had only just begun. There are many scenarios I had played out in my head over my lifetime . . . None of them involved my sister not being by my side. This is something I can barely comprehend to this day. I knew that I needed to stay positive.
Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women. This made me think, I am Nikki’s sister, I should be spreading the word and raising money to fight this horrible disease.
The 2014 climb was my first one. We, TEAM NIKKI, spreading the word about my little sister and helping raise money for a cure. For the Oklahoma climb, I gathered 25 of our closest friends and our team raised over $10,000 with the help of everyone we know. Since then, we have participated in nine climbs and three walks and have raised over $200,000 for the American lung Association.
These are some of the proudest days of my life. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt at those moments, she did not die in vain. Nikki was such a unique soul and because of her and her journey, I can do so many things I never thought I could. I have stepped outside my comfort zone on many levels both physically and mentally.
I just feel as though I was given some of her strength. I have chosen to take this tragedy and try to make as many positive things come out of it as I can. This is not to say I don’t have bad days or the “why me” days, but when you find a meaningful cause, it is easy to not let those days consume you. I am proud to have helped start the Oklahoma Lung Cancer Survivors and Caregivers support group in Oklahoma. We are holding meeting virtually and would love to have other survivors and caregivers join us.