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Dave Schwartz

It wasn’t her time

With cancer beaten Nikki Karg takes her battle back to the ice

(Photo submitted by Gordy Karg)

With cancer beaten Nikki Karg takes her battle back to the ice

I have the opportunity to meet a lot of very interesting people in my job for KARE-11. Every so often I get to meet one that inspires me. This week I had the honor of telling the story of a young woman who possessed strength that I am not even sure I have at a 35-year old, and she is only 18.

Watch the story here.


(Photo submitted by Gordy Karg)

Nikki Karg is a senior at South Saint Paul high school. She is playing on the junior varsity right now to start the season with the hope that she’ll join the varsity as soon as she can. It’s not that she isn’t talented enough, it’s that she is trying to regain her strength from battling leukemia for the last year.

I first met Nikki at a pep rally last fall in South St. Paul. Her family and friends were having a benefit that night at the school’s football game and I was doing my sportscast there live as a part of our Friday night football coverage.

I met and talked with her father Gordy Karg. Gordy is the kind of guy that you could talk with all day. Quick with a story and even quicker with a smile and so, so very proud of his family. Gordy told me about his daughter’s diagnosis of A.L.L. Leukemia and how he was 100 percent certain that she would kick it within a year.

I’ll admit his conviction got to me. I try to make a habit of never promising news coverage. In my line of work it’s darn near impossible to make good on them. News breaks, schedules change, events come up and inevitably things get pushed around.

But that night when Nikki’s father told me with such certainty that she was going to beat this and that we should do a follow-up story when she does, I took him up on his offer. I told him that when she kicked cancer’s butt, I wanted to know.

I was so thrilled to get that email.

If you met and talked with Nikki right now, you’d barely ever know that she went through such an ordeal. She looks and sounds like a completely healthy teenager who is getting ready for college. Although she has a few scars on the outside, remnants of her body rejecting a transplant from a family member, her scars on the inside seem to have healed completely.

Nikki and I talked for about 15 minutes last week. She chronicled for me the previous 10 months of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and bone marrow transplants while never once letting her smile slip from her face.


(Photo submitted by Gordy Karg)

Nikki’s parents told me stories of nurses and doctors who loved to see her because of her positive attitude and infectious smile. They all recalled the day when the initial diagnosis came and how they knew that, of all of their three children, Nikki was the one who was tough enough to handle it. And how no matter how scary things got, she refused to let leukemia take the fight out of her.

During our conversation there were a few tears; when Nikki passionately recalled knowing that it wasn’t her time because she still had more to do. From Bridget and Gordy about they day they heard that their little girl had cancer and the helpless, horrible feeling that it carried with it.

It was a life-changing event for the Karg’s and how could it not be? None of us can ever truly know how we would react in the face of such adversity. We can only hope that we’d react the way the Karg family did. By coming together and gaining strength in each other.

Nikki is winning now. Her leukemia is in remission. She wants to go to St. Thomas to get her MBA so that she can start her own non-profit to help teens with cancer because she and her family believe that it’s a group that is largely ignored.

Like so many parents Gordy and Bridget swell with pride when they talk about their daughter’s new purpose in life. Keep in mind that she once wanted to be a doctor, the dream of so many parents because of its financial stability.

This Christmas the Karg’s will be able to celebrate the holiday back home after spending it in a hospital last year. But Nikki’s Christmas wish won’t come on the holiday

Her perfect gift won’t come until the day after when she has her final test to see if the cancer has stayed away. While the family is confident all will be just fine, there is always a little doubt.

Still, after all they have been through, even the possibility of being clear of this experience is the best present of all and no gift wrap is needed.

When he is not writing his MHM column Dave is the weekend sports anchor and reporter at KARE 11 in Minneapolis; he is also an avid hockey fan. Dave played a variety of sports growing up but hockey held a special spot in his heart.He played junior hockey in Elmira, New York until he realized that it wasn’t going to be a way for him to make a living. So journalism took over and he began calling games at his school Hobart and Williams Smith colleges. He also wrote for the school newspaper and hosted a weekly radio show. Following HWS he received his Masters in broadcast journalism from the S.I. Newhouse school at Syracuse University.After stops at KAWE in Bemidji and KTAL in Shreveport, Louisiana, Dave is thrilled to call Minnesota home.

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