PUBLISHED: 4:18 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Juneau woman continues battle against cancer

  Olivia Nelson
Far away from home, Olivia Nelson is still fighting for her life. A 28-year-old mother and resident of Juneau, she is battling Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and due to receive one last inpatient chemotherapy treatment this month. Nelson has been receiving treatments at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. since her diagnose last October.

Her family said Olivia is still in good spirits, but the chemotherapy has taken a toll on her body. They're using some of the strongest treatments as the cancer came on so aggressively, they said. She has experienced all the noted side effects of chemotherapy: from complete hair loss and extreme weight fluctuations to migraines and nausea.

"After her last treatment, there is a strong possibility Olivia will need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant," said her sister Olga Lisvet Mendoza.

Should she need a transplant, the next step is to find an appropriate donor. The best donors are siblings; donor typing of her brother and sister will then be done, the family says.

Should she not need a transplant, Nelson will be able to go home after a short while but will undergo maintenance chemotherapy for the next 18 months, Mendoza said.

While no one can be with Nelson full-time in Seattle, including her husband Stefan Nelson, she has a great support network in Seattle and a family member is always at her side. Caregivers rotate on a weekly basis; more than 30 airplane tickets have been donated so far.

"Olivia has missed nearly a third of our 17-month-old son's life," Stefan Nelson said. He said their children and life here in Juneau is what keeps his wife going. Her goal is to return free of cancer.

"She misses them (their children) deeply; it is very hard to be away from home so long," he said.

Nelson said their son, Anton and daughter, Olivia, 4, are doing well, especially considering that they haven't been able to interact much with their mother.

The family contributes helping hands in caring for the Nelson's children, including Olivia's cousin, sister-in-law and mother.

Mendoza describes her sister as a very sincere person who enjoys one-on-one conversations.

"She has always genuinely cared about others, and has been a natural caregiver for her children and the rest of her family," she said.

Past fundraisers include a taco feed and silent auction, contributions from Valentine's Coffee House and a donation match from Pavitt Health & Fitness.

Money raised by the previous fundraisers has helped pay for medical bills, airline tickets and living expenses.

The current fundraiser is an online auction of an original oil painting, "Mendenhall Fireweed," donated by the artist and former long-time resident Robert Grogan. The auction is managed by Olivia's brother Gilbert Mendoza, and ends at 8 p.m. Friday, April 6.

"The list of individuals who have helped is long, but we wish to sincerely thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts," her family said.

The family feels very blessed by Juneau's supportive community and amazed by the generosity and kindness expressed, they said.

For information concerning the auction, go online to or contact Gilbert Mendoza at For monetary gifts, send checks to: Stefan Nelson, 439 3rd St., Juneau, AK 99801.

Courtesy photo provided by Kennedy Associates Real Estate Counsel, LP.