July, 1999. My cousin, Heidi Gann, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Worse, doctors told her, it was triple-negative breast cancer—a rare and aggressive form of the disease that was considerably more likely to spread. There were fewer treatment options, they said, and even if she beat it, it was likely to recur. She was just 32-years old but she feared not for herself. She had a new husband (Don) and two gorgeous kids (Karlie, 14, and Bradley, 10) that loved and depended upon her. There were mom and dad to think about. There were her sister and brother-in-law. There were grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, friends, and coworkers. We all adored her. We all were shattered to hear the news. She would not let us down. She would do whatever needed doing. She underwent an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, radiation, and surgery. She fought like hell. She beat it.
Over the next twenty-some years, Heidi and Don would waste no time in seizing that second chance. They had another beautiful baby together (Mason), and made for themselves a wonderful life. They knew they were lucky. Little things that seemed before like a big deal were put now into perspective. A cancer diagnosis has a way of doing that. Its long shadow looms over the rest of your life, for better—and for worse. RARE AND AGGRESSIVE. CONSIDERABLY MORE LIKELY TO SPREAD. FEWER TREATMENT OPTIONS. LIKELY TO RECUR. Cold words that lurk just under the surface of every thought. Ominous words that come crashing into your head at 3am insisting you never forget them—until they come true.
January, 2018. It was back. Triple-negative breast cancer. Hearing the news was painful. Breaking the news to her children was especially painful.
Saving her life now would require undergoing intense chemotherapy again. It would also require a double-mastectomy. The radical treatment paid off. Six months later, she was pronounced cancer-free. For a second time, she had beaten cancer.
September, 2019. It is back again. This time, it has spread to her lungs. This time, doctors tell her, it is inoperable. After a month-long battle with her insurance company, they finally agreed to assist her in a clinical trial with City of Hope. Tests were run. Last week, she heard back. The cancer has spread to the brain—she is no longer a candidate for City of Hope's clinical trial.
Undeterred, Heidi presses on, fighting to live. In addition to proton therapy, she will undergo chemotherapy for the rest of her life. She will take on several alternative treatments, as well, treatments with a proven success rate of curing patients with terminal cancer.
While these treatments have restored a long needed sense of hope to our family, they are not cheap. All told, they will cost some $70,000 over the next six months. Funds are being raised to help Heidi and Don with their substantial medical bills and home bills, while Don stays by Heidi's side, maintaining a safe and loving home for their family. Your well wishes, prayers, and financial support are all appreciated.