Erika Hetherington (Reutimann) Erika Hetherington

First post: Mar 16, 2022 Latest post: May 1, 2023
Erika was in her 34+ week of pregnancy when she began to experience increased nausea and agonizing pain in her upper abdomen and right shoulder. She had an OBGYN appointment on Thursday, March 3, when she relayed these symptoms to her doctor.  The doctor decided it would be prudent to admit her for an ultrasound, thinking it was either preeclampsia or gallstones. After the ultrasound, her doctor reported she had found a tumor on her pancreas and spots on her liver which could be cancer. An MRI was scheduled immediately in order to get a clearer picture of what was going on.

Dick and I booked the soonest flight out of Seattle arriving the next morning to be with her and Cody. That afternoon, Erika’s doctor informed us she had pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to the liver.  They decided to induce labor due to Erika’s pain from the cancer and the medication she needed to control it.  Needless to say, this was devastating news, but we tried desperately to not look at what was truly depressing, but focus on what was to be a blessing and that was the arrival of our first grandchild, Erika and Cody’s first child.

On Sunday, March 6, Erika was induced beginning at 3:30 a.m. but never reached more than 3 cm. so they decided to perform a C-section on Monday, March 7. At 6:53 a.m. Makenna Erika Hetherington was born four weeks early, kicking and screaming, but healthy.  Cody and Erika changed Makenna’s middle name to Erika to give tribute to her and continue the legacy of the name Erika which is now 5 generations of strong women!  Makenna weighed in at 4 lbs. 5 oz at 18 inches tall. Erika had to go to ICU for the evening due to her pain and labored breathing. Makenna went to the NICU as she continued to develop.

Throughout the week, the goal was to manage Erika’s pain and oxygen level so she could go home and for Makenna to gain some weight so she could keep herself warm. Makenna ate well, slept well and was thriving. Makenna spent many hours in Erika’s room and she many hours in the NICU, we all took turns visiting and feeding her.  In the meantime, Erika had a biopsy, met with a UCLA specialist and began making plans to get specific answers as to her diagnosis.

Erika came home with an oxygen tank on Saturday, March 12 just in time to celebrate Cody’s 30th birthday on Sunday, March 13. Unfortunately, Makenna had to gain weight before she would be able to come home.  We all took turns visiting, feeding, holding and loving Makenna while she grew stronger every day.

Since then, we have all been finalizing the house waiting for Makenna’s arrival.  On March 15, Erika had an appointment with Dr. Timothy Donahue, Chief of Division of Surgical Oncology and Surgical Director of the UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases and Dr. Zev Wainburg, Professor of Medicine at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA GI Oncology Program. Both reviewed her biopsy and other tests with their team.  Erika was given a diagnosis of neuroendocrine carcinoma which is a very rare form of cancer and no clinical trials available to her at this time.  They recommended she begin chemotherapy immediately (Wednesday, March 16) at UCLA hospital for three days (through Saturday, March 19). Thereafter, she will receive chemotherapy as an outpatient every 3-4 weeks.

Makenna will be discharged Wednesday, March 16. We are so excited to have her home. Erika, Cody and Dick will remain at UCLA until Saturday while Pattie, Tyler and Sierra care for Makenna until Erika gets home.

Since this distressing news, we have been so grateful, appreciative, and amazed by the outpouring of thoughts, prayers, love, gifts, offers and support we have received from the nurses, doctors, friends, family and friends of friends. It truly gives us hope and inspiration and the realization we are not alone in this fight. Erika feels truly blessed and loved by you all. Erika just wants to be the best mom she can be to Makenna and we all are praying she has that chance.

Again, all your offers to help are very much appreciative; I know we all feel somewhat helpless in these situations, but know, the power of your thoughts and prayers are welcomed and sooo needed. We have received so many gifts over the past week and as you know Erika is diligent in writing thank you cards, but at this time, I hope you will give her a pass and know that she truly loves every single gift!  We will use this site to update you as to Erika’s progress, and of course Makenna’s, and let you know if there is anything we need.  Please feel free to continue to send messages, prayers, and thoughts as it all helps.

We love you all and appreciate you all!  Love, Pattie on behalf of the Reutimann and Hetherington Family!