Heather was diagnosed with Stage IV ALK+ lung cancer at 34. After sudden and severe disease progression in 2019, nearly four years into her journey, she dug into her toolbelt. The tool belt comes from a communications degree and a career in project management. Her tools are unconventional but absolutely applicable to living your best life with cancer. She puts the communications degree to good use by advocating for lung cancer – through a blog, a virtual support group, fundraising, and telling her story to the local news. She draws her project management tools to simplify the overwhelm of cancer life (get organized, get clear, and map out your next moves). And finally, the unconventional tools: movement, mindfulness, and meeting your soul, to transform from cancer patient to a truly thriving cancer thriver.
A: I was diagnosed with Stage IV ALK+ lung cancer at 34 years old.
What was your treatment path?
A: I am taking targeted therapy for my mutation and have been on 5/5 available on the market – I have not yet had chemo or radiation. My oncologist has a few tricks up his sleeve and I’m even more passionate about advocacy and research today, because I know I’m on the last line available!
As a PEN Network Manager, what are your interests and how are you helping other patients?
A: My interests all revolve around living my best life with cancer, and outside of the light of ‘cancer patient’. You can find me sharing unconventional advice and tactical tools and strategies to take your power back.
How has cancer affected your life?
A: When I had disease progression in 2019, that was when it really changed my life. I woke up in that hospital bed and knew that I wasn’t ‘doing my life right’ and I knew I definitely wasn’t ‘doing cancer life right’. I wasn’t sure what “right” meant- but I set out to figure it out, because there isn’t a roadmap, especially for long term survivors. I believe you can get crystal clear on your identity from before diagnosis, to current state and create a vision of yourself in the future. The person you have always wanted to be and I believe you can make steps every day towards your dreams and goals. I believe you can take your power back.