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Heidi Siens sits in an exam room at Kettering Health Medical Group Primary Care in Franklin with a swollen foot. It’s the week of Thanksgiving 2019. Waiting to hear her X-ray results from Dr. Nathan Beebe, and whether her foot is broken, she feels the air shift in the room.
Dr. Beebe seems distracted as he reads her MyChart from the exam room computer.
“Your breast biopsy results just came in,” he finally says.
Heidi recently went for a call-back appointment after a routine mammogram, assuming it was a precaution. She has no family history of breast cancer and doesn’t have the typical risk factors.
Yet, she has an uneasy feeling she’s about to receive news more severe than a broken bone.
“Heidi,” Dr. Beebe continues, “you have breast cancer.”
“Why me?” to “Why not me?”
For the next 24 hours, Heidi asked herself “Why me?” As she’d done many times before, she turned to her faith to find answers. After praying and reading her Bible, she reshaped her mindset to “Why not me?”
“I knew in my heart that the Lord was going to use this diagnosis as a platform for me to minister to other women and contact other women,” she explained, “and really just be an encourager for screening and early detection.”
Since then, she’s advocated for women throughout their cancer journeys. Through social media, Heidi shares resources, answers questions, and offers encouragement. She even gives her time and money to help women schedule and get to their mammograms.
“Particularly in October, but even when it’s not Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I post reminders to get a mammogram,” Heidi said. “And if you need help scheduling, please call me. Or if you need a ride. Or if you’re scared, I’ll take you and sit in the waiting room and pray for you while you’re in there and take you to lunch afterward.”
She’s grateful her cancer was discovered early but knows “There’s always that ‘What if?’ What if I had decided to skip it that year?”
That’s why she believes so strongly in routine screenings. “Not just detection, but early detection is key,” said Heidi. “I don’t want people to have that false sense of security that, because they had a mammogram three years ago, they’re fine.
“Very quickly, things can change.”
Work with a purpose
In 2020, at 49, Heidi had a double mastectomy. Starting with Dr. Alejandro Calvo as her oncologist and her care team, she received inpatient and post-op care that saved her life and dignified her journey as a patient. “Compassionate, high-quality care is exactly what I would expect from Kettering Health, and I experienced just that.”
One example of this was the resources beyond her clinical care. “They send you home with books, pillows that you’ll need after your surgery, resources for wigs and bras. All the things that are in the back of your mind but secondary to ‘Am I going to live?’”
A senior project manager for Kettering Health’s Center for Excellence, Heidi appreciates the alignment between the system’s mission and her own, and how that translates into whole-person care.
In her role, Heidi works with departments throughout the system. Most recently, with Oncology and Nutrition Services—both of which she experienced as a patient.
“That has really helped me and encouraged me in my work,” she explained. “To be able to say I’m not talking to you as a co-worker, and I’m not talking to you as your project manager. I’m talking to you about ‘Here’s what it felt like when I was the patient.’”
As an employee battling cancer, she felt supported by her leaders and colleagues from the start.
“At the time I was diagnosed, I worked at Soin and my leadership team at our monthly meeting asked if it was okay to share,” Heidi said. “They put me in the center of a circle with about 70 people, holding hands and praying over me. And that support continued throughout [my journey].”
Three paths merge
Heidi is also a diehard Bengals fan: She’s been a season ticket holder for 31 years and, in 1997, named her son Blake after then-quarterback Jeff Blake.
Heidi’s story of survivorship, Bengals fandom, and passion for Kettering Health’s mission will merge at Paycor Stadium on Sunday, October 15, at the Bengals Crucial Catch game. She’s been selected by the Bengals to be Ruler of the Jungle, where she will lead the stadium through the “Who Dey” chant before kickoff. She’ll also be recognized on the field during halftime alongside fellow cancer survivors with a special bell-ringing ceremony.
Heidi is overjoyed to be honored by the team she’s supported for over 30 years and deeply understands what it signifies. “I don’t take survivorship lightly, and I don’t take it for granted. I’m using it as a platform to remind women: It’s time. We’re in October. It’s time to get that [mammogram] scheduled.”
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