Breast Cancer is scary enough as it is.
But as a pregnant mother with 3 children under the age 8, Heidi Floyd had every right to feel completely overwhelmed when she discovered a lump in her breast. Heidi persevered, and now (more than a decade later) is the proud mother of 4 beautiful kids. She has spoken to thousands of men and women across the world at intimate events, corporate meetings, and national conventions, relating her moving story and inspirational message. We caught up with Heidi for an interview.
CS: How did you first discover your breast cancer?
Heidi: “I was terrified at first. I found my own tumor, the lump on my breast… And it took all of us by surprise because it grew so quickly. When I talked to my OBGYN, she was confident that it was not cancer, but due to my family history (my mom passed at a young age from breast cancer) she said let’s go in and take a look.”
“My first cancer test result came back fine. You do not have cancer. But my OBGYN was hyper-concerned about it because of my family history and she said, ‘I could tell that it has grown from one week to the next and that just makes me uncomfortable. Let’s just get you in and we’ll get a lumpectomy. So we did, and the results from that were almost immediate and it came back that it was [breast] cancer.”
CS: Looking back, what did you learn from going through the process of diagnosis?
Heidi: “I think [my experience] to getting a second opinion, but also listening to yourself. When we got those first test results that said I was fine, I knew that was wrong. I just knew that something was missed. Go with your gut. You know your body; you’ve had it your whole life!
I’m also a big advocate of people doing their own self-exams and being just diligent in checking your body. You must check yourself constantly! The female body does change regularly but you need to keep track of what’s going on. Yes, things are going to change and feel different but you still need to be aware of it.
CS: How was your cancer treatment different because of your pregnancy?
Heidi: “At first, termination of the pregnancy was the option that was presented for me. So we actually got a second opinion and ended up going to the IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, Indiana because at the time George Sledge was there. He was leading the cancer team and is a brilliant researcher and clinician in the world of pregnancy with cancer and breast cancer is his specialty. He knew what to do but he did determine that for the rest of the pregnancy, I would be getting chemotherapy.
So all of those things contributed to me feeling abjectly alone. Yes, I could find other women going through breast cancer, I was sitting next to them every time I would go to get chemo… But I was the youngest one there, I was the only one who was pregnant, so it was tough.”
CS: Did you ever try to meet other cancer fighters like you?
Heidi: “We attended big walk-a-thons and did all of these things to help give back to a community that we felt connected to, even though we weren’t in it yet. I thought, ‘if we just get together in this big group, we’ll find someone to connect with.’ But again, even when we did those events, I was the only one my age, the only one who was pregnant. There wasn’t a tool like the one you’ve created.”
CS: So where are you at today?
Heidi: “My son was born healthy and strong (he had made it through all the chemo), and I was asked to become a speaker and share my story. I raised a lot of money for research and things like that. I was re-diagnosed in 2011, so I’m still kind of on the journey.”
“Once you go through cancer, you get the treatment, but when you’re done with chemotherapy that does not mean you’re done. And it’s hard to explain that to the outside world. Yes, I have my hair back and now I have eyebrows, but it doesn’t mean everything’s honkey-dorey… It goes with you forever. You’re constantly living with the effects of not just this disease, but the surgery they did to take care of the disease.”
CS: What are your thoughts on your breast cancer journey to date?
Heidi: “Everything that has happened to me, I feel very strongly that this has been something that is a sign to me so that I can help other people with it…It was frightening but I am a person of very strong faith and conviction and I believed in my doctor.”
Check out Heidi’s awesome website, www.heidifloyd.com for more on her inspiring story!