In July, 2009, Heidi was diagnosed with stage 4, endometrial sarcoma, with the most aggressive type of cells. During the next two years, she had 42 days of chemotherapy infusions and three major surgeries. Nevertheless, the relentless cancer kept coming back. After her third surgery, with no more chemotherapy options, she was told by her doctors to get ready for hospice. Here is her story, written by Chuck Gibson and Community Press, republished here with permission:
“There were times when Heidi Bright prepared to die after being diagnosed with a terminal cancer in July 2009.
Today Bright delivers a message of hope and healing through her book “Thriver Soup” and speaking to groups. This is the third traditionally published book by the Milford author. Bright’s book addresses healing from every angle: physical, medical, nutritional, social, emotional, mental and spiritual. It is exactly the same approach she used in her own survival and healing. Highly undifferentiated endometrial sarcoma is a most rare form of uterine sarcoma. At a leiomyosarcoma conference in 2015, only half the people in the room raised their hand when Bright asked if they even heard of this diagnosis. Zero hands went up when asked if they knew of anybody diagnosed.
“I have only heard of one person in the entire world who had the same diagnosis,” Bright said. “I heard of her early on. I have no idea where she is, or if she’s even still around.”
Rather than chase that down, Bright utilized her energy for her own survival. The first oncologist she saw offered only one paragraph of information he found online. Her sister works for the FDA and had connections within that organization and the National Cancer Institute. She called on all her friends.
“She got me in touch with the best uterine sarcoma doctors in the world,” said Bright.
That led her to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where they wanted her to stay for treatments. A wife and mother of two boys, 11 and 13, living in Loveland, she was not going to Houston for treatments. Next was Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. Again, they wanted her there for the treatments. Her sister found the Sarcoma Alliance. Dr. Larry Copeland of Ohio State was a highly recommended member of the alliance.
“We decided to go there,” Bright said. “We met him and we both agreed he was the right person for me.”
Between the July diagnosis and the scan for the chemo treatments, she went from one metastatic nodule in her lung, to four. She was already doing lots of alternative treatments including affirmations, visualizations, praying, and people praying for her; everything she knew about and a strict diet. A blood draw showed her albumen (a measure of nutritional status) to be 4.2. Above 3.5 is good, below 2.5 is usually a poor prognosis for someone with cancer.
“I already had a very good nutritional status and here I was with end-stage cancer,” she said. “So I knew diet [alone] was not going to save my life.”
Bright says it absolutely did contribute to her healing and survival, but not without medical treatment. She went up to Columbus for chemo treatments every two weeks for 16 treatments. After that round of chemo, there was still one tumor growing. She began a new different type of chemo treatment which lasted eight months. The remaining tumor died, but a new tumor was growing. She decided to have it surgically removed and tested.
She had the lung surgery, followed by chemotherapy, which required three- to five-day hospital stays every three weeks. Copeland referred her to Dr. James Pavelka at St. Elizabeth in Edgewood, Kentucky, so she could stay closer to home. After six treatments, a scan showed a one-half inch nodule on the pulmonary vein right next to her heart.
Despite concerns of her oncologist, the surgeon who performed her lung surgery was confident of success. In the midst of all that, Bright and her husband agreed their marriage was over. She moved out, stayed with friends and even slept on floors. Five weeks later, she had the surgery. The tumor had already grown from a half-inch to 2 1/2 inches. Bright did not want to know the prognosis.
“They didn’t tell me, but it was pretty clear that I was in trouble,” Bright said. “There were several times when I prepared to die. The stuff was growing, what could I do?”
Six weeks later, at a post-operative meeting, she was told how big the tumor had been and to get back on chemo. But with no chemo options left, Bright was told get ready for hospice.
“My next scan was clean,” Bright said. “It was 25 months from the time I was diagnosed to the surgery. Three months later I had a scan and it was clean.”
Throughout those two years, Bright had been writing on a Caring Bridge blog created for her at the beginning. People who read it encouraged her to write a book. Learning all along the way, she had great support and personal determination to survive. A book sharing her “recipe” for survival and healing is the natural outgrowth from her experience.
“It was seven years of hell,” she said. “I feel like I’m on the other side now.”
The other side has revealed a will to share hope, healing, and survival. Bright said “Thriver Soup” will teach the “ABC’s”, attitudes, behavior, and choices, for readers to learn there is hope. The book offers tested tips to reduce the impact of chemotherapy, get out of the hospital earlier, recover faster, manage fear, relieve stress, and avoid scams. Her book is filled with a message of healing and hope for those trying to survive cancer.
“I like being alive,” she said. “I’m just getting started. I’ve got to get this out there. I want to give people strength and hope.””
Alive and well, Heidi Bright has been in remission since 2011.
Heidi’s story was written by Chuck Gibson and Community Press, and republished here with permission.
Heidi recently won two awards:
-2017 “Champion in Cancer Care” Award from the Cancer Support Community
-2017 “Unsung Hero” Award from Cancer Family Care
EDITOR’S NOTE: As of December 2018, Heidi remains well and thriving post-cancer diagnosis.
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