Killewald recovers successfully from brain surgery

Anthony Maggio

A return home for the summer for most college students usually involves a decent paying job, food supplied by parents and good times with friends.

Former Minnesota hockey goaltender Erica Killewald returned to Michigan in June only to discover she had a brain tumor. She underwent a six-hour surgery on June 6 to remove the mass.

“It’s basically a parents worst nightmare,” mother Janeen Killewald said. “It hasn’t been the lazy days of summer as you would anticipate with your kids coming home. We were behind the eight ball right from the get go.”

Since surgery, things are looking up for Killewald. She is recovering at a pace just short of miraculous.

“My balance and vision are improving,” Killewald said. “They are getting better every day. They definitely didn’t think I’d be where I’m at right now in my recovery. So I’m already doing a lot better than I expected.”

Killewald attributes her quick recovery to the support and prayers of family, friends and even strangers.

“I’ve gotten a ton of mail, a ton of flowers, and people coming to visit,” Killewald said. “It’s just been great.

“I’ve got a lot of people supporting me and I really appreciate what everyone has done for me. Sometimes you don’t know how people feel and how much they care about you until something like this happens, but overall it’s just been awesome. I’m just so glad to have so many friends and close family members to support me and get me through it.”

Killewald isn’t the only one who needed support overcoming the ordeal. The Killewald family is a tight-knit unit and had difficulty dealing with the summer’s events.

Killewald’s younger brother Kurt has felt a little neglected. Janeen said Kurt and Erica are inseparable, but all the attention Erica received caused a case of sibling rivalry.

“My young son was very jealous even though it was a tragic situation,” she said. “The attention she got and all the focus basically centered around her, and it was very difficult.”

Battling a brain tumor has been an eye-opening experience for Killewald, something she believes can be understood only by someone who has gone through a life and death matter.

“It really makes you think about everything,” Killewald said. “With all the time I’ve had to recover, I have been thinking about a lot of things, and I definitely think that I’m a different person now.”

However, Killewald’s battle with the tumor is far from over.

The doctors were unable to detect the entire mass from initial MRIs, a possibility they had warned the Killewalds of in advance. The angle taken by doctors left them unable to extract the entire tumor.

Killewald will continue to get MRIs once a month to monitor the remaining portion of the tumor, but a second, possibly more risky surgery will eventually be necessary to remove the mass.

For now, Killewald isn’t thinking about further medical procedures. Instead, she is looking forward to returning to Minnesota where she will finish her last year of school.

Friends and teammates are in awe of the way Killewald has dealt with her illness.

“She’s already someone I look up to as a leader and someone I’ve always looked up to as a person and a friend,” former teammate Tracy Engstrom said. “Her being that strong of a person to come through and battle through this just shows her character.”

Even though Killewald has no hockey eligibility left, she wants to be involved with the team and plans to attend as many games as possible to cheer on her friends and former teammates.

Killewald already misses being on the team but knows its time to move on.

“I’m going to get over the hockey thing, and I’m definitely going to get over this illness, and once I do, everything will be fine,” Killewald said.

Then she will be ready for a relaxing summer at home.


Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]