LUNGevity Foundation is proud to announce Richard Heimler as the June LUNGevity Hero. His journey since his spring 2004 diagnosis of lung cancer has inspired many, showing that continued research into treatment options can help extend the lives of lung cancer survivors – in Richard’s case, for an additional ten years so far.
But the journey hasn’t been perfect or easy. A nonsmoker in his mid-forties, Richard was shocked by his diagnosis of lung cancer. He experienced heart palpitations on his flight home from a business trip, and after many tests with a cardiologist, an X-ray revealed a shadow on one of his lungs. It was lung cancer. Richard got his right lung surgically removed and in the next five years also had tumors removed from his chest and brain, and chemotherapy to keep the relentless cancer at bay.
“My children were too young to lose a father, and I didn’t want my parents to bury a son,” Richard shares in his short film ‘Richard’s Rays of Hope. “With other types of cancers, you get to a five year mark, you’re home free. Odds are it will never come back. Not true with lung cancer. Lung cancer can always come back. And mine has seven times.”
Unfortunately, the lung cancer’s next attack was on his only remaining lung. They could not remove it, and the chemotherapy was merely stabilizing the tumors, not killing them. With the belief that Richard had no other options, his doctor recommended that he join a clinical trial on the drug Xalkori. Xalkori helps the three to five percent of lung cancer patients with the ALK positive gene. The trial was a resounding success for Richard, shrinking and stabilizing his tumors with no negative side effects, as well as allowing him to feel the healthiest he has felt in years. With the hope and promise of science, he has managed to stay one step ahead of the disease.
Thankful for the additional time, Richard is determined to share his story in the hope that raising awareness of the impact of life-saving medical technology and research. In Richard’s own words: “I call myself a reluctant advocate because lung cancer doesn’t have many survivors. We have very few voices but it’s important that everyone has an advocate.”
Richard has produced a short film about his fight against lung cancer, titled “Richard’s Rays of Hope.” To learn more about his journey, you can view the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb_yULgxaJ0.