After two years of watching her father struggle with leukemia and its treatments – from chemotherapy pills to blood transfusions — Heather Hobler, 49, of Mattapoisett, lost him to the disease.
Within a month, she was diagnosed with cancer herself.
Hobler was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, and underwent a year of surgeries to rid her body of the disease. The night of her last visit to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for treatment, Hobler saw TV news coverage of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge check presentation, a ceremony celebrating the millions of dollars raised for cancer care and research at Dana-Farber through the 190-mile bike ride across Massachusetts.
“The day after my last surgery, registration opened. I signed up for the full 190-mile ride, although I was still recovering. I had no idea what it would entail, but I was determined to do it. And I did,” Hobler recalls.
Hobler completed the ride and raised $11,521 for Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. After the PMC, Hobler moved to Hawaii, where she lived and worked for three months and spent time decompressing and reflecting upon her father’s and her own battles with cancer. While there, she joined a group called Paddle for Hope, or the Pink Ladies, a support group for women who had survived breast cancer. The group learned to paddle in traditional 40 foot Hawaiian canoes, which could fit six people.
Finishing the PMC provided Hobler with such a sense of accomplishment and propelled her to sign up for a seven-hour voyage from Maui to Molokai, which chartered the most dangerous channel in Hawaii. About 20 women, breast cancer survivors, doctors, nurses, and a hospital chaplain, all paddled in the 40 foot canoes, sans life preservers, through the 1,200 foot deep channel.
“My experience with the Pan-Mass was quite impressive to the women I paddled with,” Hobler says. “Meeting survivors from all over the country through this group helped me realize the quality of care that I had at Dana-Farber, compared to what many of these women had experienced.”
On August 7 and 8, Hobler, still cancer free, will ride in her second PMC. Please help Hobler meet her $4,200 fundraising goal by making a donation.