Advocate of the Month – June 2013 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Amy Heidrick for becoming our Advocate of the Month for June. Amy shares the story of her father– a family man through and through– and his fight with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

My name is Amy Heidrick and my best friend and father was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on February 24, 2012 and lost the battle on February 2, 2013 at 69 years of age. He had his right lung removed on May 9, 2012 in Boston, Mass. He started chemotherapy 6 weeks later and did quite well through it all. He received two good CT scans in August and September, but the cancer took an aggressive turn and, on Thanksgiving Day, we were told that the mesothelioma had spread to his abdomen and there wasn’t anymore we could do to fight it. It was unbearable to hear those words, because we all have perpetual hope. It is what keeps us going. My dad lived for God, his family, and the outdoors. Every aspect of his life centered around those things. He was such a fit active man who was extremely health conscious and always had a gentle caring attitude toward everyone he met.

Mesothelioma decimated our family. It robbed of us time, happiness, and wonderful future events in which my dad will no longer be included in. His grandchildren were so important to him that he took an early retirement just to be near them. My dad was present in our lives daily. I think once you are diagnosed with a terminal cancer like mesothelioma, all the silly things that used to matter suddenly just disappear. I immediately saw the world differently, shorter in existence and so easily taken for granted. Along with the word cancer comes knowledge. A knowledge most of us just don’t want to know or that we do know, but just keep tucked neatly in the back of our minds.

Cancer has taught me patience, compassion, selflessness, and best of all, a deep dependent relationship with God. Watching cancer eat someone alive that you love so deeply is the most humbling, heartbreaking, and out of control experience anyone can endure. It abruptly prioritizes life. It has shaped me into a more God fearing, caring, sympathetic person. I believe life is about people, not things. A few days before I lost my dad he said, “forgive everyone, love and follow the Lord, and be happy because in the end nothing else matters.”

My family is currently learning how to live with the “Empty Chair”. Living a life that doesn’t include a spouse, father, grandpa, and best friend is excruciating. I would give anything in the world to sit at the dining room table with my family and hear my dad say the dinner blessing just one more time. We are very thankful for all the blessings we have and the precious time we had with Dad. It is a conscious decision to focus on those blessings and some days are easier than others to do so.

I am thankful and honored to to be the MCA advocate of the month. I intend to support and fight this awful, unnecessary cancer until the day I draw my last breath. It pains me greatly to lose my irreplaceable dad to such greed. My heart breaks for our family and all those undeserving families around the world coping with this brutal beast we call mesothelioma.