August 7, 2005
I want to tell you a story about my friend, Heather. I met her about 5 years ago, and she was just another runner, and I also hashed with her. We had a lot in common – both writers, both went to University of California schools – except that she also has a 14 year-old son (whom we have also gotten to run).
On one of our runs, Heather told me about her lack of work, and I was able to find her a very small position with the company that I worked for… so we also got to work together for a bit.
In 2002, Heather was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, which is basically a death sentence (though the odds of survival have climbed to 1% by 2012).. Her diagnosis was caught earlier than usual because of another condition, whose symptoms alerted her to the Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis.
The doctors did the Whipple procedure which removes portions of several organs, including the pancreas. She went through the procedure like a champ and then several months of chemotherapy. After about 6 months, she was declared in remission… but a few months later, it was back and had metastasized in several other organs.
Heather was the most upbeat person, never complaining about her situation and always willing to try whatever treatment might be the future cure. The current proposal was a special treatment, only available in Switzerland. However, it was going to cost $20,000, and she also had to get out there, stay there and recover there.
We helped to put on a 2-mile and 4-mile “race” called Hope for Heather, both a fundraiser for the Switzerland cure and to put on a race (I finished in 32:58, but there were no placings.). The event garnered $25,000 and paved the way for her treatments there.
Although the success of the treatment was somewhat near 75%, after returning from Switzerland, there was no miracle cure – it even seemed to some of us that she worsened more precipitously after her return.
Ten months later, I put on a special hash run, where we raised money for her son’s college (though since he had scholarships, we used it so he could spend more time with his previously mostly estranged father) and also gave her friends the opportunity to visit her en masse, especially when she was too weak to make any more events.
One week later, she died. She was 38 years old.