Van Niekerk’s husband, Allie van Niekerk, confirmed on Friday that 12 previous chemo sessions over a six-month period had not achieved the desired results. She had also had half her gallbladder and a part of her pancreas removed.
“Her cancer count was going down but it started rising again, and next week she will start a different kind of chemo treatment,” Allie said.
Van Niekerk, a four-time Comrades Marathon gold medallist, had been admitted to hospital in Pretoria earlier in the week due to stomach pain.
“The last week has been quite tough, but she’s looking better and feeling more positive today,” Allie said.
Van Niekerk withdrew on the eve of last year’s Comrades in KwaZulu-Natal after being diagnosed.
A former winner of the SA marathon title, as well as the prestigious Loskop, Om Die Dam and City to City ultra-marathons, her spouse said the 39-year-old athlete could not yet consider a possible return to road racing.
“At the moment we’re just hoping for a miracle, believing and praying that everything will be ok and she’ll get through this,” he said.
“Riana will have long-term dreams of what she still wants to achieve, but our main priority right now is to keep her alive.”