Wanda HeitBreast Cancer Survivor Stories
At Lee Health, we have exceptional employees who are also incredibly strong breast cancer survivors, and we want to take this opportunity to celebrate each one of them and their inspiring stories for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Wanda Heit has been at Lee Health for nearly 17 years, and is an inspiration to us all!
Four months after a routine mammogram with normal results, Wanda felt a lump on the outer edge of her left breast. Her surgeon was confident that the lump would be benign, so Wanda had it removed on March 21, 2005. However, three days later she received devastating news. Wanda was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
“I was shocked to hear those words, ‘you have breast cancer,’ with no family history of breast cancer, five sisters and I just had a mammogram with no signs,” Wanda said.
Wanda made the decision to undergo a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery on April 26, after determining that the cancer was only in her left breast. She had nine lymph nodes removed, and seven of those were positive, meaning she would need radiation as further treatment. Wanda began aggressive chemotherapy treatments on May 13, and they lasted until Aug.19. The aggressive chemo took a toll on Wanda’s body. She developed painful mouth sores, and she had a low white blood cell count, but nothing could stop her from courageously fighting her battle against breast cancer. On Oct. 3, she began radiation treatments, which lasted through Nov. 7. Wanda’s treatment was far from easy, but the support from her husband, coworkers and long distance family pushed her to continue fighting on.
As a survivor, Wanda has become an inspiring example and role model for women who are battling breast cancer. She has participated in several walks for breast cancer, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk in Tampa Bay. She and three of her friends trained all summer for the walk, and on Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, the four women walked 60 miles.
“While walking we shared stories about why we walk and it made me feel a part of something big,” Wanda said. “Crossing the finishing line, I broke down. I was tired, my feet ached, but I walked into a line of supporters cheering me into the finish line, and it was the most beautiful welcome home I had ever received.”
Wanda’s journey with breast cancer was far from easy, and the memories of her fight are still present, but she has turned the scariest news of her life into a beautiful story as she continues to be a role model to those who are currently going through their battle.
“I faced my disease in a positive manner and showed people through my example that such a thing can indeed be done,” Wanda said. “Cancer may always be a part of your life, but it won’t always be the center of your life.”
If you would like to share your story, please reach out to Alyssa.Young@LeeHealth.org