Meet Heather


“I would not let cancer be in charge of me."

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“I would not let cancer be in charge of me."

Adjunct professor, integrative health coach, and believer in the power of resilience and support


Early Influences

I was the most difficult delivery of the siblings—the baby girl to three older brothers. I loved having older brothers because it made me a rough-and-tumble girl that persisted. Dad helped me learn about being humble and grateful, while Mom instilled in me the importance of serving and caring about others. Though an introvert—while many disagree about that—I overcame shyness and learned to shine. Experiences growing up and in college encouraged this insecure, watching-from-the-sidelines, slow-to-warm-up, human to build up the confidence to become spunky and empowered.

A Journey of Self Discovery

As an adult, I allowed myself to disconnect from nature. I was a workaholic. I was an adjunct professor of child development, a profession I loved immensely—so much so, that it came first, before me and personal relationships...even the committed, eighteen-year relationship I had with Kevin. We enjoyed sports, socializing, traveling, and being together at home. So much of life is the connection between the mind and body. If I’m listening, the “mind-body” will tell me all I need to know; I had not been listening well enough. And the mind-body noticed. So, one day, I started losing my voice. I thought it was allergies at first. Students would ask me what was wrong with my voice, but as was typical for me, I would just brush it off, ignore it. It was a visit with the OB/GYN that set off alarms about the throat. She thought it was a goiter, which is an irregular growth of the thyroid. I exclaimed, “What? A goiter?” I wanted to know what it was for sure, so I went for a second opinion. An ultrasound showed what turned out to be an extremely rare benign tumor on the esophagus. It was removed.

The following year brought a mind-body shout: a lump in the right breast. I first received a diagnosis of stage 1b breast cancer three days before my birthday. A lumpectomy changed the stage to 2a, and radiation and medication became part of the new typical for my life. With the team’s approval, I continued to do yoga in the morning, then would go to radiation, rest, and head to campus. Some days I was more tired than others, and I would not let cancer be in charge of me. I was determined to weather this storm. This time, I heard the mind-body speaking to me—and I listened.

Later on, I moved cross-country to be nearer to Mom and Dad, thinking, “A change will do you good.” That meant I spent a lot of time commuting back and forth across the states to see doctors and Kevin. After the move, I started running again, working out more, spending more time in nature, and working less. I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones. I was feeling free from disease and living a fulfilling life. The following year, I decided to become an integrative health coach to be of service to others with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Facing Challenges Head-On

Then, during a yoga trip, I started feeling out of breath, and when I would lie down, it felt like I was choking. I thought it was just allergies again. I also started having pain on the right side of the chest. I thought it was because of all the working out. I was going to get a checkup soon, so I wasn’t that worried.

Looking back, the mind-body may have been whispering to me because something made me ask about getting a PET scan before the checkup. I didn’t need one, said the oncologist, because of how well I was doing. During the appointment, I had bloodwork done, a breast MRI, tumor marker test, and acupuncture. The bloodwork came back screwy—you know, atypical—so they did the bloodwork again. The results were the same. The oncologist ordered a PET scan. Taken together, the tests and scans indicated breast cancer—metastatic to the right lung. A buildup of fluid between the lung and chest cavity, known as a pleural effusion, was why I was choking when I lay down.

I could see the surprise—and tears—in some of the healthcare team’s eyes. We respect each other and I know they really care about me. I think the oncologist was more shocked than I was. I went right into warrior mode. It was time to weather another storm, the biggest one so far. When I am approached with a challenge, I start with what I need to do right at that moment. Then, I figure out next steps. I was more determined to weather this storm—and to keep making choices that felt right for me.

Choosing Treatment with IBRANCE

With the mBC diagnosis, everything became different. Nevertheless, I persisted. I choose to take it day to day, scan to scan, year to year, to determine how treatment and the mind-body are collaborating. The oncologist told me about IBRANCE, a treatment that had been FDA-approved as a first-line option for adult patients with HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer in combination with an aromatase inhibitor. We discussed the benefits and risks, including serious and common side effects. I was prescribed IBRANCE for my HR+/HER2- mBC and started the combination treatment of IBRANCE and anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor.

I was hesitant to start the treatment at first—my attitude went up like a shield! Then I went into receiving mode, and now I thank the medication when I take it. I had a PET/CT sometime after starting treatment and it showed a change—tumors shrank—and the tumor marker results went down. Remember, this is just my experience and everyone’s different. I have experienced some side effects while on IBRANCE, including fatigue, upset stomach, moodiness, cough, headaches, migraines, exacerbated allergies, and sinus challenges. I worked with the team to manage the side effects. We reduced the dosage. Other patients may experience serious or common side effects including low white blood cell count, lung problems, low red blood cell count, low platelet count, and loss of appetite. Make sure to talk to your doctor about your own experience with treatment.

Living with mBC

Day to day, to take care of myself I focus on the things that I need to do. Is today the day I need to sleep more? To go on a walk, do yoga, or ride the bike? Whatever that is for me, and the healthcare team okays it, I will do it. Sometimes, quite honestly, especially at the onset of mBC, all I needed to do was cry, release, and let go. Music is another release for me—if you haven’t noticed, the brain creates a soundtrack for me. Whether creating a playlist, dancing around the house, or going out and listening to live music, music heals this mind-body and spirit.

Now, when I look back, I realize I’ve been through many storms. And I’m still standing. I can still laugh. I can still find happiness. I’m grateful for physically being here. I am a spiritual being living a human life. I am in charge of my life and get to choose how to live it. I choose the quality of life for the quantity of time I am able to be of service to this mind-body and others.

Reflections and Looking Forward

Life’s messages present themselves in funny ways. A few months before the mBC diagnosis, I had the Kanji symbol for “strength” tattooed on the wrist as a reminder to inspire me. At the time, I didn’t know that strength would play a significant role in this life. There’s no one answer for cancer. There are, however, choices. And throughout the journey, I’ve made small steps in the right direction that have become some of the biggest steps of this life. I’ve learned to make choices that make the mind-body feel stronger. That strength has taught me that storms pass—and what I do during them can determine the outcome.

Unfortunately, over the course of just three years, Mom passed away, as did Dad, Kevin’s dad, Kevin, and then Kevin’s mom. Their transitions have been different, difficult storms than the tempest of mBC has been for me.

I’m still on the first line of treatment and stable. They say that storms make some tree roots grow stronger. The roots just grow deeper and deeper. It’s roots like those, that grounding, on which I feel I’ve built a foundation for myself. Whatever storms come this way, I know I’ll be ready.

Ambassadors were asked to share their personal stories about IBRANCE and compensated by Pfizer for doing so. All content was accurate at the time of publication and may have since changed.




Heather faced her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis with an unwavering spirit, finding solace in nature and the support of loved ones. “I was determined to weather this storm,” she recalls, as she boldly embraced her treatment journey.