Breast Cancer Survivor Helps Spread Awareness
In the summer of 1995, Kim Heard was looking forward to her family reunion in Atlanta. She had just arrived at a hotel when she felt something was wrong with her body.
“The motion of lifting the suitcase caused a lot pain under my arm. I immediately checked my armpit and I felt a lump,” recalled Heard.
Heard, 38 at the time, knew that a lump meant something was wrong, but chose not to alert her family.
“I didn’t want to worry anyone at our family reunion,” she said. “I decided it was best to wait until I came back home to get it checked.”
But Heard had recently quit her job to follow her dreams and open her own hair salon. The cosmetologist and mother to a 19-year-old had limited health insurance – which caused her great concern.
At first, she struggled with healthcare providers who did not want to give her a mammogram.
“It was a different time,” she said. “There wasn’t much knowledge about breast cancer. They thought that since I was only 38 years old and had no family history, that I didn’t need to get a mammogram.”
But Heard persisted and continued to fight, finally turning to Jackson Memorial Hospital for help. Jackson doctors diagnosed Heard with stage II breast cancer.
She immediately underwent a lumpectomy, in which doctors removed the cancerous tumor and all her lymph nodes. Then came chemotherapy and radiation for more than a year.
Three weeks after surgery, Heard’s spirits were high. She was a survivor – and wanted to share her story with others going through similar diagnoses.
“There comes a point in life where we often ask ourselves, ‘What’s my purpose?’” said Heard. “I’ve always been the encourager and I’ve always been there for my friends. I turned that energy into supporting breast cancer survivors like me.”
For the past two decades, Heard has devoted much of her time to educating women about breast cancer and early detection.
"As soon as I was diagnosed, I put literature on breast cancer in my hair salon,” she said.
She also speaks at community churches and is a longtime board member of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“I encourage everyone to utilize the resources Komen has to offer,” she said. “Women can have access to screenings, diagnostics, and radiation.”
Heard says her faith and family have been the key to her recovery.
She has been in remission for more than 19 years.
“I asked God to heal me,” she said. “I’m walking in my healing.”
Learn more about leading-edge oncologic services for patients with cancer, blood disorders, and immune system disorders at Jackson.