On January 18, 2014, Heather Purcell Leja will leave for Argentina where she will attempt to climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas at 22,841 ft. She will be raising funds in memory of Catherine (Hudgins) Tuck, her friend and classmate at The Hockaday School in Dallas, Class of ’80. Heather is a recent survivor of anal cancer and she promised herself that she would make this climb if she survived healthy and whole. Heather sees the climb as an opportunity to demonstrate her return to an active lifestyle while raising money to help others with cancer.
“Heather, I’m looking at this pathology report and I have to say. . .I’m really surprised. Call me.”
That was a voice mail from my primary care physician that I picked up at about 6:00pm on New Year’s Eve 2012. One year ago today. My doctor had never called me before. I had just spent 2 weeks recovering from routine surgery and was looking forward to going out that night with my husband for the first time since the operation. The Lumineers… Yes!
But the voicemail baffled me. I played it for my husband and finally concluded that the doctor must be looking at the wrong file. (The power of denial is staggering, isn’t it?) Before the surgery, no one had mentioned that a biopsy would be done.
So I went to the concert and rang in a joyful new year, but in the back of my mind, I kept trying to come up with a better explanation for the voicemail. And then I waited and wondered through New Year’s Day.
On Jan. 2, my first morning back at work, I called both my surgeon and my doctor for an explanation, but did not get a call back …it’s busy the first day after the holidays, you know. Finally, I persuaded my doctor’s nurse to fax me the call note she had used and then I started googling terms like “scc” and “T1? to figure out that I had Stage 1 anal cancer.
To read the rest of Heather’s inspiring story, click here.
CLICK HERE to support Heather on her CLIMB FOR CATHERINE and make a donation to The Catherine H. Tuck Foundation. Enter CLIMB in the instructions on the second page of checkout.