When Heather Canterbury was 16, her 2-year-old brother, John, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Heather loved helping take care of him. As her little buddy, one of his favorite things to do was to sneak into her room for dance parties. He even allowed her to dress him up like a doll with jewelry, scarves and hats. After his diagnosis, she remembers feeling the loss of his presence when she’d come home from school and instead of rushing to greet her, he would be at the hospital undergoing treatment. Heather wanted to help make him better but instead felt helpless. It wasn’t until years later when she became a nurse joining the very team that worked to save John’s life that she found a way to help.
After 10 years as a nurse at City of Hope Hospital specializing in bone marrow transplants, Heather’s passion has been reignited. She joined Team Cancer Sucks, the endurance fundraising partner of Lazarex Cancer Foundation, to run the 2020 Big Sur International Marathon! Lazarex improves the outcome of cancer care for advanced-stage cancer patients of all ages, with all types of cancer, from all walks of life.
Throughout her career, Heather has seen firsthand the financial and logistical struggles that cancer patients and their families face, including sleeping on the floor of the hospital lobby or in their cars at night because they cannot afford a room at the Extended Stay. She’s seen patients worry about whether they could afford the gas it would take to travel from Bakersfield to City of Hope three times a week for chemo infusions. She has seen patients travel to and from appointments alone when a spouse cannot take time off from work to be with them. The funding Team Cancer Sucks raises will help patients directly by covering costs for flights, lodging, and ground transportation, allowing patients to access the treatment they otherwise could not afford.
Heather says that running a marathon will be one of the biggest physical and mental challenges she has yet to experience, but she’s planning on drawing strength from her patients and their family members who endure and persevere through all kinds of physical and mental challenges.
This past year John celebrated his 18th birthday and as a childhood cancer survivor, he has overcome great hardship. “John and my patients have touched my life and inspired me in so many ways,” she says. “I cannot think of a more personal cause to raise money for and an opportunity to push my physical limits than through participating in this race, on this team.”
Got Questions? We have answers! Reach out to Chris@teamcancersucks.org or call 415.745.2445 for more information about joining Team Cancer Sucks to raise money for Lazarex Cancer Foundation.