Heather Grant found power, strength, and resilience through her faith and through modern and integrative medicine programs at Levine Cancer Institute. Read more about her journey that she turned into one of fierce grace.

News | 2 years ago

After Beating Leukemia AND Breast Cancer, Heather Has a Message for Other Survivors

Heather Grant found power, strength, and resilience through her faith and through modern and integrative medicine programs at Levine Cancer Institute. Read more about her journey that she turned into one of fierce grace.

Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating news that no one can possibly prepare for. But having the resources you need to face the journey can make you stronger. For 47-year-old Heather Grant, the care she received through Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute made her journey not just tolerable, but empowering and positively impactful.

When Heather received her diagnosis—triple negative breast cancer—it wasn’t her first cancer diagnosis. She had been diagnosed with and survived childhood leukemia when she was thirteen years old. When she learned that she’d battle with cancer again as an adult, she reflected on her experience as a child: the negative side effects of chemotherapy 30 years ago were debilitating. How could she face that again?

Fear Turned to Hope

But Heather quickly embraced a new perspective. She had spent 20 years working as a nurse in a healthcare setting and therefore, she knew what questions to ask regarding her own care. Much to her surprise, when she went in for the first appointment with her new breast cancer diagnosis, she discovered that the nurse manager, Susan Postell, RN, was the same nurse who cared for her as a child. For decades, Susan worked alongside Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist Barry Golembe, MD, (who has recently retired from Charlotte Pediatric Clinic and Levine Children’s Hospital), and now, Susan, would be working with Heather’s new LCI team. Because of her own nursing knowledge, Heather knew how to access the plethora of resources available to help her through her journey.

Heather took advantage of multiple supportive complementary and alternative therapies and programs offered to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Together, Antoinette Tan, MD, chief of Breast Medical Oncology at LCI and Heather’s primary oncologist, and Chasse Bailey-Dorton, MD, Family Medicine Physician who provides care at the Supportive Oncology Clinic, recommended wholeheartedly that she begin therapies offered through The Center for Supportive Care & Survivorship. When Heather lost her eyebrows and eyelashes, she attended a “Look Good Feel Better” class that taught her the art of applying makeup to feel better about herself. And thanks to an LCI-benefitting fundraiser (24 Hours of Booty) and scholarships from the funds, she was able to receive four acupuncture treatments and attend four healing touch therapy sessions for free. She immediately noticed that through integrative medicine, she was able to focus on the positives instead of the negatives and lessen some of the side effects of chemo.

Take Control to Shape Your Path

Because of this incredible support, she was able to face cancer in a new way: she chose to let her diagnosis empower her instead of defeat her. Instead of standing by helplessly while she lost her hair for the second time, together with her minister, she shaved her head and embraced her baseball caps. After the initial treatment period, she chose to keep working—and perhaps was able to do so because of a balance between integrative medicine and her standard treatment recommended by her oncologists—and continued to teach approximately one hundred students per day in her most recent career as a high school Health Science teacher (and, Heather is still a registered nurse!). To her students and to others who’ve crossed her path, her message was clear: Find joy along your journey. We all have reasons to live. And, she hopes that some of her students will be inspired to become doctors and nurses who will continue to shape the future of medicine.    

In the end, Heather went through six cycles of chemotherapy, 28 rounds of radiation, surgery, and additional optional experimental chemotherapy in an effort to completely and permanently remove the cancer from her body. After all of that, and through the support she received at LCI, she’s concluding her journey in remission and is now living on top of the world with her family, friends, students and her wonderfully supportive team at LCI by her side.

Use Strength to Inspire and Empower Others

After two grueling battles with cancer, Heather emphasizes this: If you have to fight like a girl, do it! Heather believes that God uses his fiercest warriors to fight battles and inspire others. She uses her encounters with cancer to teach her own children and her students the importance of faith, education, resilience, and strength.

Levine Cancer Institute proudly offers world-renowned treatment to breast cancer patients like Heather to help ensure that that they emerge from their journeys as vibrant, strong, and inspired to contribute to others as possible.  

To learn more about breast cancer care at Levine Cancer Institute, visit our site or call 704-302-9270 to make an appointment.