Heather Hogan

My name is Heather Hogan and I live in Woodstock, New Brunswick. In September 2012 at 52, I was diagnosed with stage 3A non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), specifically adenocarcinoma of the lung. My family and I were devastated.   

I can only describe those first months as a blur. All these questions swirled in my mind. Future? Will I have a future? Am I dying?  Yes, I am dying. What about my family? My husband, my kids, my parents? I planned my funeral numerous times. How can you look to the future when you might not have a future? I had no idea how to deal with this.

In the blink of an eye, we were thrust into a whole new world filled with oncologists and radiation oncologists, bloodwork, more CT scans, PET scans and hospital waiting rooms. We had to learn a whole new vocabulary. This wasn’t in my life plan. Hearing that I had a 15% chance of surviving 5 years brought my world crashing down around us.  So many thoughts and fears came in waves as I began this rollercoaster ride.  Over the next ten months, I went through two lung surgeries, four rounds of chemo and twenty-five radiation treatments. Some days, I would cry continuously, others, I spent walking around Walmart trying to feel normal.  I went to counselling, prayed a lot, did yoga, had reiki and acupuncture, prayed a lot, learned to meditate, cried and prayed a lot. My anxiety and sleeplessness were through the roof, however, my GP helped me deal with that.

Finally, on June 3, 2013, my husband and I walked out of the hospital after my last radiation treatment. Now what? My life had revolved around a calendar.  My next scheduled appointment was in three months. I felt like I was on the high wire without a net.  For the next two years, I was scheduled for scans every 3 months, then, I would move to scans every six months and now, I am on yearly scans which is the plan I will follow for the rest of my life.  As of June 3rd, 2019, I was 6 years, post treatment, with no evidence of active cancer.  

We have all experienced the loss of friends and loved ones to this disease. There is rarely a day that goes by, that we don’t hear about another person diagnosed with cancer or that someone has passed away from cancer.  It can be overwhelming but we have a choice about how we deal with each day. There are lots of tough days but I am grateful each morning that I wake up. 

I can’t speak about my journey without mentioning the important role of caregivers. In my case, it is my husband, Bill.  He is the one who researched my cancer, asked the questions at appointments, got copies of all of my reports and blood work and studied the information to better understand my cancer. He has never left my side and carried the weight of my care on his shoulders.

Three years ago, I retired from my teaching position and have become a lung cancer advocate and peer to peer mentor to encourage and support lung cancer patients.  I have helped to create a Facebook site for Canadian lung cancer patients called, “Canadian Lung Cancer Advocacy – Breathe Hope.” I am also a member of Lung Cancer Canada, and I play a part in creating avenues for lung cancer patients to get connected and find needed support.

This journey has introduced me to so many wonderful lung cancer survivors and advocates around the world, many of whom I have never met in person.  Together, we advocate for early diagnosis, research dollars and life-saving treatments.  No one person can do this alone and you are never alone.
Cancer has taught me several lessons:
  • We only have today. Life can change with one phone call.
  • Laughter is great medicine.
  • Reaching out to those who are hurting does wonders for you both.
  • Strangers can become great friends because they understand.
  • Not knowing what to say is better than saying nothing at all.
  • It’s ok to ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone.
  • Prayer is comforting.My-name-is-Heather-Hogan-and-I-live-in-Woodstock,-New-Brunswick-In-September-2012-at-52,-I-was-diagnosed-with-stage-3A-non-small-cell-lung-cancer-(NSCLC),-specifically-adenocarcinoma-of-the-lung-My-family-an-(4).png