Heidi Floyd is a breast cancer survivor who went through her cancer treatments while pregnant with her son. She now works full time for the Vera Bradley Foundation, which is focused on donating money to breast cancer research. Her story is, to say the very least, INSPIRING. We hope every woman and man reads this post and visits Heidi’s blog to become more empowered about the realities and advancements of treating breast cancer.
Love+Water- Can you talk about how you got involved with the Vera Bradley Foundation?
Heidi Floyd- The company, Vera Bradley, which started as a handbag and luggage company and now has other products, was started by two friends who lost someone close to them to breast cancer. They promised themselves that when their company became successful they would start a foundation to give money specifically to breast cancer research. They have already donated ten million dollars, and are getting ready to donate another ten million. My mother had died from breast cancer along with many other women in my family. In my interview with the company to work in the sales department as the IT person, I learned that they had this foundation, which was what made me want to work for them.
L+W- When did you find out you had breast cancer?
HF- Two years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself, and I was pregnant at the time. The first oncologist didn’t know how to treat me. I got a second opinion at the Indianapolis University Simon Cancer Center, which is where the Vera Bradley research money goes. I met with a clinician there and he knew what to do. He had treated 24 pregnant women that year.
L+W- What was the treatment process like?
HF- I could do chemo therapy once I was out of my first tri-mester, but no radiation and I couldn’t take the kind of pain killers or medicine that is normally given to settle your stomach. They took the baby by C-section a month before he was due in order to make sure that he came out without a problem, and that I was in the clear as well. He was in intensive care for a while because his immune system was compromised due to the chemo, but it didn’t take him long to recover. He is five now, and he’s very healthy.
L+W- Did you have to continue with your treatments after your son was born?
HF- I had several surgeries after that, and I’m doing fine now. I currently take a low dose of chemo everyday, but I have clean margins. After I completed my treatment I transitioned to working just for the foundation, which has been a very fulfilling job. I’m able to talk to women everyday and let them know that I believe there is hope out there for finding a cure, because we are seeing more and more evidence of that.
L+W- What do you think people who want to donate to finding a cure for breast cancer need to know about where to donate?
HF- I think the important thing is that many people want to give money to support this research but don’t always know where their money is going. So it’s important to know there are foundations like Vera Bradley where you know exactly where the money goes. Donations go directly to research- no question about it. There are many foundations that display the pink ribbon, but don’t always donate all of that money to areas you necessarily want to support. It’s important to look into what areas of breast cancer you are donating to and choose the area you most want to support.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far with the Vera Bradley Foundation?
HF- When I speak to groups I’ve heard a couple of times from women that they had wished they heard me speak sooner, because they have a friend or relative that died because they couldn’t find an oncologist who could treat them while pregnant. This is very moving because I can’t stress enough how important it is to choose a doctor you can trust. It’s very important to get second, third, fourth opinions until you find the doctor who is right for you, and that’s not just for breast cancer, but for everything. It’s so important.