Breast cancer survivor relies on the love of her family and support of her caregivers during treatment
At age 34 and with no family history of breast cancer, Maggie Hier didn't anticipate a cancer diagnosis after finding a lump in her breast. Still, her primary care provider suggested that she get a mammogram and ultrasound to know for sure . After having the additional testing, she opted to have a biopsy.
"It was August 23, last year, when the radiologist called me to give me the results," she shared."It was a bit of a gut punch.I never expected to get breast cancer, especially at a young age."
After receiving her diagnosis, Maggie connected with Ella Dugan-Laemmle, breast cancer patient navigator at the St. Vincent Breast Center, who walked her through the next steps to begin understanding the diagnosis and treatment plan. Then, Maggie met with her cancer team to discuss her treatment options . They made the decision to have chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery and then immunotherapy.
Knowing that her treatment would take many months and would be taxing on her body and spirit, Maggie relied on the support and love of her family, especially her husband, son, parents, in-laws, and extended family and friends, and her brother, who kept her laughing. She also had the love and support of her friends and her excellent team at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital, which kept work worries away when she was out of the office.
"My mom told me initially that I would not be alone for any of it, and 1000% she kept that promise."
Between her mom and her husband, she always had someone by her side at every treatment and appointment, and she credits their support for helping her make it through the last year."My husband Kris is my rock. He stuck by my side through it all. After chemo took my hair, he still made me feel beautiful. He helped me to laugh through the hard days and celebrate the good days. The support he gave me helped me to win this battle."
Maggie shared that during months-long treatment, sometimes 'you just need someone to sit with you in the mud.'
"I learned that even when I wanted so bad to fix it and cheer her up and tell her 'It's going to be okay,' that sometimes you just have to sit and cry and let them have a bad day," shared Lori Heimbichner, Maggie's mother.
In addition to her family, Maggie relied on her caregivers at the St. Vincent Cancer Centers of Montana for help and support as well. She shared that her St. Vincent caregivers "hold the battle line for their warriors" and that knowing that her nurses, doctors, and other caregivers were supporting, healing, and encouraging her during treatment helped her get through the tough days.
"You need the people there to pick you up when you need to keep going. They were always there," she shared.
And those caregivers aren't just their supporting the patients but the family members caring for them as well.
"I can't say enough about the doctors, nurses, and the support team at the Cancer Center," said Lori."It made one of the most terrifying things you can face beyond doable."
"It is difficult to be a support person and watch a loved one or family member going through treatment," shared Amber Miller, RN, one of Maggie's nurses."They are being strong for their loved ones, and we try to be strong for them.It can be a relief for those supporting patients to see that we are here for them too."
After her six rounds of chemotherapy treatments, Maggie had surgery in February and will finish her immunotherapy in September. After almost a year of treatment, she has been declared cancer-free.
When reflecting on their journey together, both Maggie and Lori shared gratitude for growing closer during this time and the life lessons they have learned.
"I can't believe I would say this, but I am grateful for this diagnosis," shared Maggie."I have felt very blessed to learn these lessons early in life: that work can wait, to take every day as it comes, and to focus on today and the next step in front of you. There are so many great things each day brings."
Lori added, "It has been the worst year of my life and the best year of my life. We laughed a lot and cried a lot.I n a weird way, we are going to miss that time together."
The same is true for her caregivers at the St. Vincent Cancer Center.They spoke about their unique personal relationships with their patients and family members.
"We looked forward to them coming in.They would light up the room," shared Amber.
"We are happy to see Maggie finishing her treatment, but we are going to miss seeing them here," said Ashlyn Lamphier, RN.
St. Vincent Healthcare is a proud sponsor of Relay for Life of Yellowstone to honor individuals and families impacted by cancer and to raise funds for the American Cancer Society to support cancer patients like Maggie.We look forward to seeing you at this year's event.