Cancer is no match for vibrant 20-year-old | KUDOS
July 10, 2012 · Updated 2:55 PM
Last week, as the country celebrated its Independence Day, there was another very special celebration going on for a South Whidbey woman diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.
On July 3, friends and family gathered to join Nichol Zalewski in celebrating the completion of her long and arduous cancer treatment schedule culminating with the ringing of a bell.
Last year on Sept. 2, Zalewski, a 20-year-old Western Washington University student, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, occurring in four out of a million girls per year in the United States.
Zalewski, a 2009 graduate of South Whidbey High School, was on the varsity volleyball and tennis teams.
In her sophomore year of college, Zalewski was healthy and vibrant when she started experiencing pain in her right knee and tibia.
She was very active and found she couldn’t exercise without lingering pain in her leg, but attributed it to the typical aches and pains that come with someone so active.
Two weeks after her 20th birthday, her parents took her to the UW Sports Medicine Clinic for a check up, never guessing that her pain was a result of a large tumor in her upper tibia.
Her life quickly turned into a whirlwind of appointments, scans and surgeries in preparation for a long course of high dose chemotherapy and a limb salvage surgery.
Nationally renowned surgeon Dr. Chappy Conrad, who specializes in this type of surgery, performed her procedure at the UW Medical Center. He was able to save her leg by using a titanium rod to replace a large portion of her tibia along with a full knee replacement.
Ten months after it all began, Zalewski was finally able to ring the coveted bell to signify the completion of her chemotherapy.
Zalewski and her family, including grandparents Stanley and Nancy Andrews of Langley, and Allan and Carol Zalewski of Edmonds, thanked those who supported them through this difficult journey.
“Words cannot express the depth of our gratitude,” the Zalewski family said.