Heather McKinley

First post: May 22, 2019 Latest post: Jul 20, 2021
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.  

Hello Friends and Family…

Since I am always the practical Iowa girl, I am putting the no-nonsense details first so that it is all up front and you can stop there if you need to. The second part is more of the whole story and how my family and I are doing.

The Details:

I have HER2 breast cancer. I was officially diagnosed on May 15 and on May 20 had an MRI which showed that the area found on my right may be a little bigger than they originally thought, and that I may also have a suspicious area on my left. I will go in tomorrow for an ultrasound and probable needle biopsy to determine if this is bilateral. The good news reported today is that there doesn’t seem to be anything suspicious in my lymph nodes at this time. I will be meeting with an oncologist from there with Rick by my side at 2 PM.

My Story:

This news has utterly shocked me and my family. I wake up each morning thinking this just cannot be, there is no way. Though I really do love my chocolate, I am a generally healthy person with virtually no family history of cancer, heart issues, diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol. In the spring, summer and fall I walk or run 3.5 to 7 miles per day.  I generally eat lean meats and salads, love fresh fruits, and nursed all 3 of my kids for a year (supposed to cut your risk of breast cancer). Now here I am with a CaringBridge site and a life that has stood still.

Many of you who know me know that I do have a strong faith which is definitely helping me take steps forward and find peace at this point. I am also surrounded by so MANY people who are caring and supportive in every aspect of my life. There is no lack of love surrounding my family at this time, and I am deeply grateful for this. Though I have to say, I have trouble being the one who needs the help and it makes me feel like I’m the “charity case”, “cancer girl” who needs people’s pity. I can almost hear your words in my head now, “You know you’d do the same for any of us, Heather!” Yeah, well, I’d rather be on the OTHER end of this whole thing than the one receiving. So there is my very first lesson - learning to receive graciously.

Little Miracles: 

The day I got the call that I have cancer, I received it when teaching math to my sweet little class of 4th graders. I was in shock, Rick was traveling home from appointments out of state, and I was asked to come in by 1:30 that day. My teaching team surrounded me with hugs, support and covered my class immediately. A dear friend who works for Park Nicollet, Shey, has Wednesdays off and offered to come with me to the appointment when Rick couldn’t get there in time. My teaching team also dropped off a gift card to Culver’s which was there when we got home just in time to go to Hannah’s last Jazz Band Concert. We were able to go out together as a family and celebrate the end of her 8th grade era before our lives changed forever later that evening.

Friends from all times throughout my life surrounded me with cards, meaningful gifts, chocolate (!), words of hope and love, prayer and encouragement that sustained us through the initial shock of it all. I even have a friend who helped develop the Science Nights at my school offer to substitute for me or co-teach with me for my summer Dissection Camps, which, of course, I was very  worried about. Meals and gift cards for meals started to show up when I couldn’t think about making dinner or formulate a thought let alone a grocery list. I have had people who know me well allow me to be angry, sad and even make me laugh in a way I didn’t think was possible ever again. My sister drove me to the MRI when Rick couldn’t be there. People say we are God’s Hands and Feet here on Earth, well I am experiencing what that means personally.  

There is no way to prepare for how to tell your children something like this. It is hard to watch the concern, tears and fears creep across their faces knowing you are the reason for the anguish. Oh, to be able to keep them from these things. Pray that they are also “held” in God’s peace through this time.

There is no way to articulate the sorrow this creates as you tell the love of your life what you are facing, having assumed that the whole sickness part of the sickness and health vows was expected to be kicked down the road a little further. On our first date, we saw Steven Curtis Chapman in concert. Rick remarked at how fitting his song we chose for our wedding was then and is even now:  “I Will Be Here” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU2hPIwqbTk). How perfectly it encapsulates all aspects of our almost 25 years together - especially this difficult time.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU2hPIwqbTk

What I/we need: Well, that’s hard - anyone have a quick cure for CANCER?! Sorry, terrible joke.

Right now, I feel like we are getting some additional answers and a care/battle plan together. I have a friend who will set up a Sign Up Genius for meals, errands, yard help, rides for kids, and just plain any need that arises. This will come out very soon and the link hopefully will be included in each post on this site for your convenience. I also have a friend helping me with the CaringBridge site. I have asked her to be my voice if I don’t feel like writing it all down. I will try to keep all the information up-to-date here so you know how to pray, the links you need to help our family in some practical way and just generally what is going on.

One last favor if you are a parent of a former student of mine, and especially a current student of mine. If you would please hold off on telling your kids until school is out. I want the end of our school year to be the carefree and joyous time we all hope for. My classroom is where life seems “normal” for a while, and I feel a purpose right now. I want my days filled with their curiosity, laughter and fun rather than their worry directed at me.

Thank you so much everyone...I am grateful for and humbled by all you have already done and all the love you have shown. You are adding glimpses God’s love, beauty and hope through a very dark and ugly time. Pray….please...

For specific information about our practical needs at this time, please go to:  

Thank you!

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