A pediatric oncology nurse who is battling terminal breast cancer got a surprise last Friday during an appearance on NBC's TODAY.
The morning show is marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a Pink Power series, and the Oct. 2 segment featured Erika Rucks, a nurse at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
Host Hoda Kotb spoke with Rucks in a pre-recorded interview about her mission to "live life with hope," and then live on the TODAY show from outside of the hospital, they surprised her with a new SUV and other gifts.
In the 8-minute segment, Rucks said she "loves working with kids," and she knows what it's like to be a kid who has cancer. When she was 15, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which went into remission and she studied to become a nurse, married her husband, and had three daughters.
Then, in 2019, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Rucks said it was "probably the worst day of my life ... because I didn't need the doctor to tell me what that meant."
The cancer is Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer – it spread to her spine –and is terminal. But despite that diagnosis, she keeps working at the hospital.
She said being a nurse is part of who she is, so she wanted to go back to work, telling Kotb: "I view it as I'm helping to cure their cancer, so even if I can't cure my own, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to cure somebody else's."
In addition to working, Rucks said if there wasn't a pandemic, she would be out traveling, taking her family all over the country and all over the world.
To give her that opportunity, TODAY, along with Ford, gifted her a 2020 Ford Explorer and $10,000 "ultimate road trip experience" so she can travel and make memories with her family.
One of the places Rucks said she wanted to go with her family is Hawaii, and although she can't drive there, Kotb said they'll help make that trip happen, too.
"You're really one in a million," Kotb said.
Here's the full segment: