April 5, 2019

Fab Friday Female: Cindy

I am so incredibly honored to introduce you all to my amazing, inspirational friend, Cindy, who has managed to turn her family’s personal challenges into something unbelievably positive. Her husband’s cancer diagnosis triggered a movement to create a foundation that strives to raise both money and awareness in the fight against cancer.

  • What was that moment like when you found out about your husband’s cancer diagnosis?

Vince and I were 26 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  It was a shock.  Overall a healthy, young, healthy guy, so it was a huge surprise. Waiting for the diagnosis was the hardest part.  Your mind won’t stop thinking about all the what if’s.  Once we got the diagnosis and came up with a plan, it was definitely easier to get ourselves together.

  • What were his treatments like?

Vinny had chemo every other Thursday for seven months.  It was supposed to be for just six months, but two of his treatments were delayed due to low cell counts.  At first, he did not have a port, so the chemo went straight into his arm.  We ended up in the ER one night snuggling on a twin cot waiting for the ultrasound tech to see if he had clots in his arm.  He was in so much pain because of the chemo drugs.  He finally got a port and that was the best thing for him.  We would got to chemo for a couple of hours, get some food after, then he would start with a fever and then go into uncontrollable shakes and chills.  Finally he would pass out for the night.  The next day he would wake up feeling hung over.  Sometimes he would miss Friday of work and sometimes he would work a half day.  He had several different side effects that as a young wife, I did not know what to do for him — mouth sores, stomach issues.

  • How did the Heroes Foundation come to fruition?

Vince received the book “It is Not about the Bike” by Lance Armstrong.  We both felt passionate about survivorship which is what Lance’s Livestrong was about.  Vince had a good prognosis, but chemo still SUCKS.  You have to get through all those treatments and work through the anxiety of going to each appointment knowing that after you get this medicine, you will feel terrible and a new side effect may pop up.  We decided we wanted to help other people going through the cancer experience.  We didn’t want to just ask people for money, so we planned a fundraiser.  We wanted to raise $10,000, so we hosted an event at a country club with 300 friends and family and raised $43,000.  During the time we gave most of it to Livestrong but found out that Vince’s doctor was starting a program called Complete Life to help with non-medical aspects of cancer….dietician, massage therapist, music therapy, yoga, social worker etc.  So we gave money to help him get this program started which is still running strong.  Once we went to Austin, TX for the Ride for the Roses (a big weekend for Livestrong and Lance Armstrong), we were excited to get back to Indy to keep fundraising. 

  • What are some of the main goals of the Heroes Foundation?

To help people get through the cancer experience, to take each day and focus on kicking cancer’s butt, to provide seed money to researchers to help get their projects off the ground, to support programs that focus on non-medical aspects of cancer, to help provide education on prevention.

  • How did you get so involved with the Foundation?

We started the foundation.  Both Vinny and his mom had cancer, and my mom died from her third battle of cancer a few days after her 59th birthday.  Cancer sucks, and I want to help people get through it.  Vince had a good prognosis, but it is still a very hard and stressful time.  My mom had a different prognosis, but I have some very good memories of her those last two months.  It was also a very hard time, and I don’t want others to have to go through that.  Losing a parent is a very hard thing to do, and it doesn’t matter at what age.  You cannot replace a mom or a dad.

  • What brings you the greatest joy about working with the Foundation?

Feeling that I am doing something with my life besides living day to day – giving back.  Event days are the best because I really feel like we are making a difference.  Sharing what we are doing with others is absolutely amazing!  We also provide people the opportunity to volunteer, so they can give back as well.

  • How has the Foundation evolved throughout the years?

Omg….The first Gala we had, we were licking envelopes sitting on the floor in the living room.  Now we have a printing company that donates invitations and mails them out for us.  We went from a raffle to having a live and silent auction. I used to know everyone at the Gala, but now we have sponsors who invite people that I don’t even know.  When I go look for a dress for the event and they ask me what it is for, then they say oh, we had a couple of other gals in here shopping for that event.  We went from 300 guests to 700 guests at the Gala.  We now have six events now throughout the year instead of just one.  We’ve even hired two additional staff members besides just me.

  • How have the health struggles with your own daughter shaped your vision for the future of the organization?

When Vince and I were married for about three years, we decided we were ready to add to our family.  Well, God had a different plan.  Vince was diagnosed with cancer.  So we froze some sperm and put that dream on hold.  However, I couldn’t wait to be a mom.  Once Vince was done with treatments, we waited a year and had him tested and got the all clear to start working on our family. Oh my goodness, I was soooooo beyond excited! Unfortunately, though, it took a bit longer than I had hoped.  I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks, and we were completely devastated. But with the help of Clomid and artificial insemination on Valentine’s Day, we finally conceived our twins.  We went back at five weeks and found that there were two sacks and one heartbeat. But when we went back two weeks later, there were two heartbeats. To this day, we are still not sure if that delayed heart beat was a sign of what was to come…..

At our 18 weeks ultrasound and amniocentesis, we discovered baby B had congenital hydrocephalus ….her head was measuring bigger than everything else.  This happens when cerebral spinal fluid cannot drain properly out of the head. We also found out at that time that the twins were girls. I did not want to find out, so we didn’t tell anyone else that we knew.

We had to meet with a neurosurgeon and explore the NICU before the girls were born.  We also didn’t tell anyone of the news until we got closer to our due date.  There were so many unanswered questions and we didn’t want people to feel awkward asking questions.  We were still so excited to have these babies.  We told everyone about three months before they were born — I wanted the baby showers to be a celebration and not to be filled with anxiety and awkwardness.  We were told that we could abort Baby B, even though that was never a conceivable option for us.  They could not do inutero surgery since there was another baby.  The twins came two weeks early, and Maddie had a shunt placed in her head at just two days old. 

Since she was born, we have had a LOT of ups and downs, tears of joy at milestones reached and tears of sadness of other not. Maddie has had sixteen total surgeries, several of them major.  However, she is a beautiful 15 year old that has come a long, long way.  This year has been tough because we had to separate the girls for high school since Maddie needs more resources.  If we only had a glass ball to see the future…. School is hard for Maddie, so maybe she would work for the foundation some day????

  • How do you stay positive and not let fear creep into your head space, given all you’ve been through with your husband and your daughter?

You can’t.  You take each day at a time.  One of Maddie’s doctors told me she could have this certain disease, but she doesn’t have all the letters of the acronym, so don’t look it up.  I have never looked it up.  I take things as they come.  I deal with them when it is time to deal with them.  

  • How can people get involved with the Heroes Foundation?

They can donate their time or their treasure.  We are always looking for volunteers.  We also need items for silent and live auctions, so we are always taking donations for that.  And of course we always need corporate sponsorships.  We have a variety of levels in which companies can get involved.

contactus@heroesfoundation.org or www.heroesfoundation.org

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