BY JULIE JEFFERY MANWARREN
SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Donning lipstick and a cape, Heather Ross is staying positive as she battles cancer for the third time.
And her friends are right beside her. They organized Have a Heart for Heather, a paint party fundraiser set for Saturday, March 21 from 5-8 p.m. at the Chinchilla Fire Hall, 113 Shady Lane Road. The event is open to ages 13 and up and registration can be completed online at bit.ly/39hpDVF.
A cost of $40 includes dinner and dessert donated by Longhorn Steakhouse and Armetta’s Restaurant, painting and an opportunity to participate in a raffle drawing and 50/50. More than 50 prizes were donated to be raffled off. Those who cannot attend are welcome to purchase raffle tickets in advance at Abington Art Studio on Depot Street in Clarks Summit for a special selection of 10 items. Winners will be drawn on March 21 at the end of the evening.
Heartbreaks and diagnoses
A molar pregnancy in 1996 resulted in a miscarriage and Ross’s diagnosis with uterine cancer. This first cancer diagnosis was cloaked grief from the loss of her first child. Then, a baby she named Faith was lost and Ross and her husband Brian experienced six additional miscarriages.
“People will say to me, ‘I don’t know how you did this,’” Ross said. “I just kept trying. I didn’t give up hope.” Ross was able to safely deliver three children, Kenndra, Angelina and Nico, who she calls her miracles.
The South Abington Township resident was diagnosed in 2010 with thyroid cancer. Ross had 15 cancerous nodules on her thyroid and underwent surgery and treatment.
Ross grew up in Newton Township and graduated from Abington Heights High School. A cheerleader for the school, friends say her bubbly personality hasn’t changed, even though life circumstances have.
Dream job on hold
Diagnosed with dyslexia in college, Ross chose to turn a challenge into her dream career. Now a teacher for the dePaul School in Scranton, Ross works with children who have dyslexia.
“I have my dream job,” Ross said. “When I got my breast cancer diagnosis, I had to take time off, and I cried. I miss it every day, and I can’t wait to go back.”
Ross’ letter to the dePaul school families explaining her leave of absence due to cancer read, “my dePaul family keeps me strong! Just remember this, I am going to put on my pink boxing gloves and knock out cancer in round one! I am one super sparkly cape away from being a superhero!”
One of the student’s parents responded by making her a cape.
The entire school signed it.
“And they gave me earrings with sparkle on them, because they know I like to sparkle,” Ross said.
This latest challenge Ross is facing began on vacation with her family last year. Ross felt something wasn’t right.
“I was laying at the beach on the sand and felt something different,” she said.
Within days a lump on her breast had surfaced. Ross went in for testing. An 18-mm lump was discovered. After a biopsy, the lump grew quickly to 6.5 cm. Told she had an aggressive form of invasive lobular cancer, Ross opted for surgery and began 20 weeks of chemotherapy on Nov 5. She currently has treatments weekly. Six weeks of radiation are scheduled to follow.
“It was scary,” Ross said. “It was growing so fast. But I told myself, ‘I’ve beat it twice before. I’m going to beat it this time. I’ll do what it takes. I’m going to fight this.’ I’m in survival mode. Nothing’s going to bring me down.
“And you know what? Being alive is good.”
Ross said she has a great support system.
“My family has been great. I appreciate my sisters. My husband and my mom are my rocks. My husband Brian is so supportive. He’s been there by my side and doing whatever I need. He tells me, ‘Don’t worry. You are going to beat this. You are going to be fine.’
“I have a great group of friends. I call them my ‘mom-pack.’ They stand behind me and push me to be even more positive and to keep fighting. To have friends like that is everything. They are amazing.”
Katrina Keiper and Diana Lombardi are two ‘mom-pack’ friends who banded together to support Ross.
“I love Heather,” Keiper said. “I think she’s a sweetheart. We instantly connected when we first met at a birthday party years ago. She’s a great friend and an amazing person.”
The Ross family is without Heather’s income during her treatment and has added a hefty monthly Cobra insurance bill along with other medical expenses.
A GoFundMe page was formed, and the ‘mom-pack’ organized the paint party fundraiser and collected basket prizes for the raffle.
“Personally, I’ve had a few friends who have had breast cancer,” Lombardi said. “Anytime you have a friend who is suffering and going through a hard time in their life, you don’t think twice. You just jump in and do whatever you can. Because you know that’s what they need and if it were you going through it, that’s what they would do for you.
“With Heather, she’s battling cancer for the third time. It has to be tough for her to fight and keep that faith and strength. But she’s got it. She’s got a spirit that’s unbreakable.”
With the mom-pack and family by her side and her cape on her back, Ross keeps fighting.
“Positivity is the key to any situation we face in life,” she said. “This journey will be long, but I choose be strong with my lipstick on.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
- What: Have a Heart for Heather paint party fundraiser
- When: Saturday, March 21, 5 to 8 p.m.; register by Saturday, March 14
- Where: Chinchilla Fire Hall, 113 Shady Lane Road, South Abington Twp.
- Cost: $40
- Register/more info: bit.ly/39hpDVF