On a nice warm evening in June 2011, Heather noticed a large lump over her right breast. Weeks later she received news that no one wants to hear, especially at age 32... a wife and a mom of four children under the age of nine. Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is story about her journey, and how we came to know each other.
About 2 years ago I became a part of a network called Think Pink Photography. Currently, they are known as Shoots for a Cure yet still stands for the same cause: celebrating life and supporting the cause. As a photographer within this network, I "help cancer survivors and their supporters to celebrate life with charitable photography sessions and offer a set of small prints and a discount off additional print orders. Any individual that has been diagnosed with cancer or completed treatment within the past 12 months qualifies for a Shoots for a Cure Session. Sessions are available to document the fight before or during treatment or to celebrate the victory when treatment is completed."
In 2011, a friend of mine had posted on facebook information about a benefit which was being held locally for a gal who as diagnosed with breast cancer...my heart went out for her for she too was a local photographer, mother, and wife. After donating a session to the raffle and following her journey through what she had shared on the internet, I decided I wanted to ask if she would be willing to help me with my first photo session for Shoots for a Cure. I wanted to get the word out about Shoots for a Cure and support the cause. Heather agreed to help me get the word out and I am so happy she did. Here is her story, in her words.
"In June of 2011 on a nice early warm evening I happened to brush my hand over my chest. I noticed a large lump on the top of my right breast. I was somewhat in disbelief and asked my husband to feel it to make sure I wasn't just being crazy. He also felt it there. I immediately called my OB/GYN the next day to have him check it. He thought it was due to my menstrual cycle about to start and asked me to come back in 2 weeks. After 2 weeks passed I went back and the lump was still there, he then ordered a mammogram and ultrasound to check it out. Once that was ordered I was very conscious of my body for a week, and found another lump near my arm pit. After having that mammogram and biopsy done the next week, they found the results inconclusive and ordered a needle biopsy for the following week. I had the biopsy done on a Wednesday and results were to follow on Friday. On Thursday evening around 6:30pm my OB/GYN's office called and asked me to come in the following day. My heart sank when I asked, what time was available and they told me anytime, the Dr. was coming in specifically to see me on a day he was not scheduled to be in the office. I knew the news was not good. Within 3 hours of getting the diagnosis of cancer I had a visit with a breast surgeon and had all but made the final decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. I never thought this would be the journey I would be on at age 32. With 4 kids under age 9 and a marriage of the same years it wasn't what I had anticipated doing in the year to come. That was July 22, 2011, on July 27th just 5 days after being diagnosed I began the long road of battling cancer by having my mastectomy, the very first time I had ever had surgery or even been hospitalized excluding giving birth to my children. In September began 4 months of chemotherapy and February of 2012 began 6 weeks of daily radiation. The day before my first of 16 chemotherapy treatments (September) my husband was admitted to the hospital with complications from crohn's disease. He was discharged after a bowel resection the day before my second treatment. My journey is not over yet, but I'm learning to live stronger, enjoy the little moments, and live each day to the fullest. I don't consider myself a survivor of cancer yet, but a fighter of cancer, still fighting hard and getting stronger everyday!"
Heather and I have gotten to know each other within the past month, in person and through messages. If there is one thing anyone would notice about Heather, it is her huge glowing smile that is constant. She is beautiful inside and out, a strong and amazing woman. Thank you Heather, and a thank you to your family, for letting me share your story. I am sure it will hold the hand of others who are battling cancer, you are an inspiration.