Breast Cancer Survivor, Waiting for Wings
Seventeen years ago at the age of 34, Heidi heard the words “you have cancer.” She was given a 1 in 1,000 chance of survival. It seemed her life would be cut short by the virulent rare cancer raging inside her body. Incredibly, she survived for her son, for her husband and for herself. She has come back with a heart full of purpose and a mission to spread hope.
What she thought would be a written and photographic legacy for her son transformed into a book. The title, Waiting for Wings, exemplifies the metamorphosis Heidi endured. Like the caterpillar, she was bald, confined and struggling to set herself free. Early on, she declared her determination to live by having a friend write the words “I Will Survive” on her back during a photo shoot. This primal determination spills into the pages of her book. It is more than a story about surviving cancer: it is a love story between a man and a woman, a story of the human spirit and a call to rise up from adversity.
Heidi has spoken to thousands of people, blending her sense of humor with her message of beating the odds. She has been featured on CBS’s Bay Area Sunday, ABC’s Sacramento and Co. and twice on View From The Bay Talk Show. Her story has filled the front pages of Daily Republic and Reporter Newspapers. She has also been featured in Coping and Solano Magazines as well as multiple radio shows. She has been an inspirational speaker at over 100 events throughout the country. Heidi currently sits on the Board of Directors for Providence Medical Center and previously on the NorthBay Healthcare Foundation Board. Her artwork and book have raised thousands of dollars to help people dealing with cancer. Heidi is working on her second book Taking Flight, a guide for coping with cancer.
As Heidi relates, cancer is a thief; it took her breasts, her hair, and her fertility, but it did not take her spirit. She proudly honors her barren chest on the front cover of her book. By owning her scars, she hopes to broaden the spectrum of beauty. In her words, “Being alive is beautiful.”
Her journey has further evolved into a fundraising campaign called Donate & Create. Heidi uses thousands of donated pieces of broken jewelry, watches and bobbles from all over the country to create life-saving art. With the help of thousands, she and her team have created stunning designs of hope and healing. One of her designs has recently been picked up by fashion industry leader Tribal Inc., and is available as their 2015 charitable initiative. This will help support Heidi’s non-profit Donate & Create initiative.
Heidi’s presentations are a unique blend of narrative, poetry and photographs. She uses props and humor to engage her audience. After seeing Heidi speak and reading her book, you will be inspired to see your own struggles as a way of finding your wings. As Heidi says “Don’t leave this life with your potential still inside, unfold your wings and fly.”
NEW PROGRAM: SKIN TIGHT GENES
In 1999, Heidi sought her birth family to find out about her health history. What she did not know is that she would find a sister – Jen! Their bond was instant and they both fully embraced this amazing surprise. One year later, Heidi’s life was nearly erased when she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and given 18 months to live. Five years later, she heard her sister on the phone telling her that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer; her heart crumbled.
The news accelerated as they learned that they carry the BRCA2 Breast Cancer Gene which puts both them and possibly their children at greater risk. Despite the many challenges, they have discovered that speaking together is powerful. Although they have many things in common, there are definite polarities as well. Heidi is a little bit country and Jen is a little bit rock-n-roll. Heidi worries enough for a small village and Jen lives fearlessly in the moment. Jen has a “whatever will be, will be” attitude and Heidi has a “What is it going to be?” attitude.
They have entirely different coping techniques which just proves there are many paths to healing. Their presentation is natural and fluid because it comes straight from the heart of their relationship. The audience should prepare for a wild ride of emotions as they laugh, cry and celebrate life. They will always have their “skin tight jeans” and their “skin tight genes” to see them through.
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Not all creatures that soar with their wings were born with them. The butterfly must undergo a profound transformational process to get wings. After Heidi’s diagnosis of breast cancer, she had to go through her own metamorphosis. She shares the importance of embracing change using the butterfly as the model. Her rise and fall into renewal stirs the hearts of her audience to conceptualize their potential. With poetry, narrative and storytelling, you are taken on an unforgettable flight. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly.” (Proverb)
One Piece at a Time: The Art of Taking Broken into Beautiful
Through Heidi’s Donate&Create Program, she demonstrates how one woman, one idea can be a catalyst for change. By taking pieces of unused jewelry, bobbles and buttons, Heidi has created a platform for fundraising, awareness and healing. Her art is a metaphor for how to pick up the pieces of our lives and rearrange them. She emphasizes how life is a mosaic of experiences and how our brokenness can be turned into something beautiful.
Patient Power: Be Your Own Advocate, Save Your Own Life
Heidi shares information about how to obtain the most out of your medical care. From knowing what time of day to make your appointment to how to make sure you are being heard. Her advice covers the spectrum of navigating through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. “You don’t want to be just another medical file, they need to know who you are!”
Five Steps to Exceptional Survivorship
Survival is one thing and healing is another. To survive something difficult can leave you depleted and confused. Yet no matter what the circumstances, it is possible to create exceptional experiences. You can heal, love and feel deeply by discovering how to maximize the positive. You will learn concrete steps that exceptional survivors take that will inspire you to create your own path to wellness.
Breaking the Ice
Challenges can leave us frozen in fear and uncertainty. Laughter can “break the ice” and allow joy to flow. Viewing life from a humorous standpoint can allow us to draw closer to ourselves and others. Heidi shares hilarious stories, props and suggestions on how to access your inner comedian no matter what the circumstances.