Tell us about yourself.
I have been in the United States Air Force since 1991, except for a temporary medical retirement during which I finished up my chemo treatments, underwent radiation treatments, and had a couple of cancer-related surgeries. I was returned to active duty in 2006 and, Lord willing, will permanently retire in early 2013. I enjoy spending time with my two children: my daughter, Taylor, is 21 and my son, Clay, is a senior at Blue Springs (Missouri) High School. To celebrate my 5 year cancer-free anniversary last year, I got a tattoo on the top of my right foot of the pink ribbon surrounded by five ladybugs. One ladybug is purple and another is green to represent my kids. I couldn't have done the cancer thing without their love &andsupport. I also enjoy hanging out with my dog, reading, traveling, and documenting cemeteries - especially the older ones.
When were you diagnosed?
I was 39 years old. After finding the initial lump in my right breast, I called to make an appointment with my doctor (actually a physician's assistant at the base clinic) but I was told she was TDY. The PA that I ended up seeing was hesitant to send me for a mammogram because I wasn't 40. She changed her mind as soon as she felt the lump!
How has cancer changed your outlook on life?
The people that knew me BC (before cancer) tell me that I am more peaceful and I think, most of the time, that they are right. I don't let the "little things" bother me nearly as much as I used to. Life's too short! On a lighter note, I have a new appreciation for the color pink. Prior to my diagnosis, I would go out of my way to avoid owning anything pink. Now, even the reflective belt I have to wear at work is pink!!
What words of encouragement would you share with others with cancer?
"This, too, shall pass." In the moment, it seems like your life is consumed with doctors and needles and treatments, but it's not forever and your life will return to normal. Also, people will offer to help in anyway that they can. Don't be superwoman! While I was undergoing chemo, my boss was concerned about me trying to do everything and she passed on some advice that applies to life in general but especially during times of crisis "If you don't let people help, you're blocking your blessings." I love that!
Support this non-profit in honor of Heather:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, komen.org
From funding mammograms for women who couldn't otherwise afford one to funding for research to find a cure. I've participated in at least one race every since my diagnosis. Once I retire, I would love to participate in a race in each state.
Please support those battling breast cancer by donating.