Community supports Airdrie woman facing terminal cancer diagnosis

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Community supports Airdrie woman facing terminal cancer diagnosis
WATCH: They moved to Alberta from Germany 12 years ago to start a new chapter in their lives, but an Airdrie couple hasn't been able to focus on their future because of a life-altering diagnosis. As Jill Croteau reports, the community is now rallying to help the family – May 20, 2019

An Airdrie family is expressing gratitude after receiving support from friends and strangers.

Heike Heisterkamp, 56, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the community is rallying to help her in her final days.

“It sounds so ridiculous but it’s the tiny little things, your priorities are changing,” Heike said. “You don’t fight about things or think about things you can’t change.”

In her planner, she marks milestones she hopes to achieve — first, survive to summer and then maybe consider Christmas.

Heike said it helps her manage expectations living on borrowed time.  She was given three months to live, and that was more than three months ago.

“Next year, a new book is coming out from my favourite author and I probably won’t read that,” Heike said. “You catch yourself making plans and yeah, don’t.”

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She and her husband Ralf are sharing whatever time they have left together. Their 34-year-old daughter Nathalie is visiting from Germany.

The Heisterkamp family in their Airdrie backyard. Jill Croteau

“You try to be prepared and you are never prepared for that,” Ralf said about his wife’s diagnosis.

“We don’t know how long? Tomorrow, two weeks, a year, so you focus on the present one day at a time.”

“I’m a believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy, if you think negative and imagine bad things, I believe it will happen. So you have to think positive and make best out of it and gives you a chance to heal yourself more,” Nathalie said.

Ralf lost his job and could no longer work because he had to help care for Heike full-time. The family has drained their savings and are relying on the generosity of their community to help them through this final journey.

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An organization called Airdrie Angel heard about the family’s struggles.  Creator Michelle Carre encouraged business sponsors to gift the family with cash and gift cards.

“She had such a vibrancy for life. She knows there’s an end date but she is going to live to the fullest,” Carre said. “When you sit across from a woman reflecting on the end of her days and she gets up early to enjoy the sunrise, that’s inspiring for all of us.”

Friend of the family, Murray Lang also started a go fund me in hopes of easing the family’s financial burden.

“You saw the stress in their lives and they’re dealing with major issues and to help a little on the monetary side, so that’s not one of the issues, but it helps mentally,” Lang said.

Heike said the support they’ve received and the help to afford the family cherished time together without the worry of finances burden has been invaluable.

“This is what gives me this warm blanket feeling because you see and find out who is with you — really, really with you,” Heike said.

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