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February 28, 2017

Former Rough Rider has surgery to treat pancreatic cancer

Former Ottawa Rough Rider Rick Sowieta is recovering in hospital after a procedure to treat aggressive pancreatic cancer.

After going public with his battle, the Ottawa football and restaurant communities – both of which Rick has been a big part of over the years – quickly mobilized to lend a hand. A fundraising campaign was soon launched to help the Sowietas travel to Germany for the specialized procedure called Irreversible Electroporation, also known as IRE or Nanoknife.

The response shattered the family’s fundraising goal of $65,000, with more than $82,500 raised so far.

Sowieta, who played seven of his 10 CFL seasons for Ottawa, had the surgery to treat the stage three cancer on February 23 and his family posted an update this week, saying the procedure went well and the surgeon, Dr. Mathias Birth out of Stralsund, Germany, was “very optimistic.”

“The operation took almost 5 hours of moving and repositioning the probes in order to cover the whole tumor,” Rick’s wife, Jen Kavanagh, wrote in the update. “The first few days of recovery have taken a toll on Rick but he is staying strong and sleeping whenever he can. The medical team is excellent and Rick just came back from a cat scan. We should get the results quickly, if everything goes well Rick will be out of here soon.”

The procedure followed a trying year in which Sowieta underwent intensive chemotherapy to battle the cancer. The Nanoknife procedure isn’t used for pancreatic cancer in Canada and OHIP has previously denied coverage for similar out of country expenses, leading to the family’s decision to go public with Sowieta’s story.

For more on Rick Sowieta’s story, click here.