PUBLISHED: 1:56 PM on Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Local woman fights cancer with support from the community

Courtesy photo
  Olivia Nelson, a long-time Juneau resident, is bravely battling Adult Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Sometimes we have days when we're tired and our bodies just aren't working right. It could've been something we ate, stress or too-strenuous activities; a trip to the doctor is often precautionary.

Of all the worst-case scenarios, most people aren't ready for life-changing news like 28-year-old Olivia Nelson, who was diagnosed with Adult Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). She's handling it amazingly well.

Olivia began feeling tired around Labor Day, and then noticed a pain in her side. She visited Dr. Don Schneider, of Valley Medical Care, who recommended she go to Seattle, Wash. for blood work. Olivia flew to Seattle, and was diagnosed on Tuesday, October 3 by Dr. Vik Dabhi, of Virginia Mason Medical Center. She was admitted to the hospital the following day.

Her blood was 90% cancerous, and she immediately began a six-month chemotherapy treatment.

After two cycles of chemotherapy, she has less than 1% of cancerous cells remaining in her bone marrow, according to her Web site, Because there is a non-zero probability an adult will get ALL again, it's vital that Olivia complete all chemotherapy cycles to reduce risk.

"Olivia is currently hospitalized for her third of eight chemotherapy treatments," said her husband, Stefan Nelson. He says she will be doing a maintenance regimen of chemotherapy for a year or two, if everything goes according to plan.

Since Olivia cannot be treated in her Juneau hometown, she's relocated to Seattle and is staying with relatives while being cared for. Nelson said, "We have scheduled family members to be with Olivia in Seattle until she is done with her treatments; we don't want her to be alone while she is fighting her cancer."

Fundraising events assist with medical, living and travel expenses during this time for Olivia and her family. "We're so thankful for the organizers and participants of last week's Taco Feed, which I have heard was an unqualified success," said Nelson. Over 800 people showed up for the Taco Feed and silent auction at Cathedral Parish Hall on Saturday, November 11.

The next upcoming fundraiser is organized by Hector and Sokha Marrero, owners of Valentine's Coffee House. The event takes place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, December 1. All profits made by Valentine's from the entire day will be donated to Olivia and her family. Also, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., live music is provided by the Rob Cohen Duo and an art show by Jen Fowler, as part of the 2006 Gallery Walk event. They will have a donation basket, which will be continually available if people can't make it to the event.

"It wasn't something that was needed, it something we wanted to do-to go toward a good cause," said Hector Marrero, who went to school with Olivia's brother, and has been a customer of her mother's restaurant, Olivia's, for years.

Marrero says it is amazing to see the community stick together and show so much concern. "People have been really supportive of her condition," he said.

Additionally, Pavitt Health & Fitness have a donation jar available and are matching any funds contributed, which will be split between Olivia as well as Krista Messing, 20, who is battling Hirschsprung's disease.

"The main goal of the fundraiser is to help with the medical expenses that we do have, which will be significant, and to help with our loss of income," said Nelson. Olivia will not be able to work for at least a year, and he is taking unpaid time off to care for their children.

The Nelson's children are "precocious" daughter, Olivia, 3, and son, Anton, 1, who just started walking. Their family is coping as best as they can and sustaining a good attitude toward life. Nelson says he's getting quite a bit of help with the kids from everyone in their close-knit family throughout this time.

"Olivia is maintaining a positive outlook, and is hoping to get home to our children and I by April," said Nelson.


Juneau Events Coordinators Renee Holmes: (907) 790-6422 Jenny Huntley: (907) 364-2652

Monetary Gifts: Please send checks to:

Stefan Nelson

439 3rd St.

Juneau, AK 99801