Family of fighters: High school senior and three family members all diagnosed with cancer in four-week period
NEW LONDON, Minn. — The old wives tale that trouble comes in threes was off by one for Rikki Wold and her family.
Within a month's time, Wold — a 17-year-old senior at New London-Spicer High School — and three immediate members of her family were diagnosed with cancer.
Four in all.
"It took over the family in a couple weeks," said Rikki, who is still healing from surgery she had in December and is going back-and-forth between home and hospital for intensive chemo treatments.
The avalanche of bad news hit the family and their friends hard.
"It just breaks your heart," said Laura Johnson, a family friend who's helping organize benefits Feb. 23 in Belgrade and April 6 in New London.
"You hate to see anyone go through any of it, but to have four people just blew me away," Johnson said. "How much can one family take?"
Organizing fundraisers for the family was "something we just had to do," she said.
"There are four people who need help," Johnson said. "They're good people and they've worked hard all their lives ... The kind of people who'd give you the shirt off their back."
The troubles started in November when Rikki was getting her wisdom teeth removed.
The dentist noticed something wrong with her jaw bone and — suspecting cancer — collected tissue for a biopsy.
Rikki was told she would have to wait several days — until after the Thanksgiving holiday — to get a definitive diagnosis.
But during the family Thanksgiving Day dinner, Rikki's uncle, Dean Wold, of Brooten, announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Four days later Rikki's maternal grandfather, Roger Olson of New London, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was his birthday that day.
The very next day Rikki was told she had a rare form of cancer called Ewing sarcoma.
She had surgery Dec. 18 to remove the cancer and replace a portion of her jaw bone with bone from her leg.
She got out of the hospital on Christmas Eve, the same day that her dad, Randy Wold of New London, was taken to the hospital because he'd been fainting. He was then diagnosed with acute leukemia.
"Everything happened at once," said Patty Storms, who is Dean and Randy's sister. "It's been pretty wild."
"It's a real eye opener, I can tell you that. It's scary," said Jason Wold, who is Randy's son and Rikki's half-brother.
"Within three weeks to a month, all of this popped up," Jason said. "How can everyone have such bad luck in one spot? But you have to stay positive. It truly does make a difference."
Storms said the affected family members are "all pretty strong people" that have been helped by the prayers being offered on their behalf. "A lot of people have been praying," she said.
Goal to graduate
Described as "tough" and "independent" by her half-brother, Rikki was active in sports, music and FFA at NLS before undergoing surgery for cancer.
She is currently not able to attend school because chemo treatments have weakened her immune system, but she's hoping a tutor will help her keep on track with classes so she can graduate this spring with her classmates.
"That's the goal," she said. "I really love how the school has been so supportive and helpful through all this."
Being diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, which is cancer typically found in adolescents and young adults, abruptly stopped Rikki's busy school life.
"I was pretty shocked to begin with," she said. "But I wasn't in denial. I understood what was happening."
She had surgery Dec. 16 but it took about a month before she could walk well again.
She's now on a routine of aggressive treatments that are expected to last seven months.
And there could be more challenges ahead.
During a telephone interview last week, Rikki said her latest MRI detected two masses on a lung and possible new masses in her jaw.
At the time she talked with the West Central Tribune, Rikki was waiting to hear the results of those additional tests.
Rikki said she misses her friends at school but is feeling the love from her community and is working hard to keep a positive attitude.
"The support I have around me is huge but I also feel like I need to keep my spirits high," she said. "Because if you don't then you don't feel good and don't heal."
Rikki said she and her family are very appreciative of efforts to host the upcoming benefits.
"It means a lot to be able to see the community come together," she said.