A beautiful, vibrant, young mother has left us. Heather Foster died Saturday night, June 2nd, after a very quick battle with lung cancer.
I first met Heather after she and her husband Brian lost their son, Jake. Jake was a healthy baby, but right before he was supposed to be delivered, he got tangled up in his umbilical cord. I was doing a story on an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and thanks to volunteer photographer Bill Garmon, we did a beautiful story on the Fosters and this wonderful organization.
[Watch the first story I did with the Fosters on Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep]
About a year later, I was so happy to learn Heather became pregnant again. But I was devastated to find out she also had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She was not a smoker. She never had been.
Heather and Brian agreed to do another story with me. I could tell she was already in a lot of pain.
One thing that stuck with me was the way she was diagnosed. Heather told me she had a cough. And because she was a healthy, young, non-smoker, doctors at first thought she had pneumonia. A spot showed up on her x-ray, but doctors didn't even consider cancer.
Still, her coughing continued. In fact, she ended up coughing up a small piece of her tumor. When she brought it to her doctor, he knew right away.
She asked, "It's cancer...or what?"
Doctors told Heather that lung cancer can go undetected for quite some time. When doctors found Heather's cancer, it was already spreading to other parts of her body.
My second interview with Heather was on Valentine's Day. I remember feeling terrible for crowding in on them, but they wanted to talk because they weren't sure when they'd get to do it again. Brian called their relationship "perfect" that night - saying she was his best friend... and that now they felt they couldn't waste any time together. Though their days were hard, they were finding new hope in fighting together.
During our interview, Heather told me she was having some pain. She actually downplayed it. But what happened was this - after our interview, she and Brian went to the emergency room. And though she wanted to carry her baby for a few more weeks, doctors ended up taking Elizabeth Rae just a few days later.
It was hard to keep up with the Fosters after that. I signed up to bring meals to their homes, thanks to a meal train, but since they were up in Raleigh so much for treatment, my day ended up getting canceled.
I saw the Fosters just two weeks ago at a prayer vigil. Heather was hopeful, but she started crying a bit as she told me how scared she was that God might have a different plan for her than what she had hoped. She was in a lot of pain and was down to 115 pounds or less. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and that I would be praying for her.
In many ways, our prayers were answered. Heather is no longer in pain, and no longer scared. Throughout this ordeal, she never lost faith in God. She kept telling people that God could heal her. She started becoming a beacon of light for so many people who had never met her. Her Facebook prayer group exploded with messages from strangers who told her how much she impacted their lives.
I wish I would have never met Heather under the circumstances in which I did. But yet, her life had purpose and meaning to her loved ones, the community, and me.
The one thing I'll take with me and want to share with you is to be an advocate for your own health. I will carry Heather's experience with me for the rest of my life. And, I will share her story with other people as well.
I don't ask people to pray very often. But if you do pray, please say a few prayers for the Foster family. They will need peace, and not just for today or the next few weeks. I couldn't think of a family more deserving.