Blakely-Voyles was floored when she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer two years ago. She was 32 years old, and breast cancer was not on her radar. She admits she didn't even do breast self exams.
Her doctor caught the cancer. Blakely-Voyles did the only thing that felt right. She kept up her positive attitude and her radiant smile even through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. At the end of the chemotherapy, there was a complication, and Blakely-Voyles almost died.
Her mother Retha Blakely wrote about what happened in the essay she submitted to the "Honor Your Hero" contest put on by The Safeway Foundation and General Mills, the maker of Cheerios.
My daughter was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer last year at the age of 32. She and her husband were trying to get pregnant and never saw the cancer coming. After testing positive for the BRCA2 gene, the doctors highly recommended that Heather not only have a bi-lateral mastectomy, but also a partial hysterectomy and! six rounds of chemo and seven weeks of radiation. Throughout the entire process Heather kept a smile on her face, never wanting to worry anyone or let on how sick she was. After her sixth round of chemo, she suffered a pulmonary embolism and nearly died.
Despite all of her suffering, Heather reached out to other women that were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, knowing that her experiences could help others.
People often tell Heather what an inspiration she is. She always responds by telling them that she is only human and hopes that if she inspires anything, it's awareness and self-exams. Only a month after ending treatment, Heather got highly involved with our local Race for the Cure. She would spend evenings calling, emailing and sending letters to volunteers asking for their help with this year's race. Every chance Heather gets, she reaches out to women diagnosed with breast cancer and plans to continue raising awareness and money for the cause.
Heather always says that breast cancer has changed her and her outlook on life. Each moment is now cherished for the precious gift that it is. Heather and her husband Jeremy have not given up the hope of one day having a family. It is now their plan to adopt a child. Heather looks at cancer as a gift that is allowing them to find a child that needs them as much as they need that child.
A panel of judges from Safeway and General Mills read more than 1,000 nomination letters about other breast-cancer survivors. Heather Blakely-Voyles' story was extraordinary and stood out. She found out last spring that she was receiving national recognition.
During October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Blakely-Voyles's will grace special edition boxes of Cheerios sold in 1,700 Safeway stores across the country.
To kick off the month, Blakely-Voyles is teaming up with Denver Broncos running back Demaryius Thomas at the Safeway at 2150 Downing in Denver. Until the big reveal Tuesday morning, the oversized box of Cheerios will be covered in a pink cloth.
This past year, Blakely-Voyles was the co-chair of the Wyoming Kids for the Cure and volunteered for the Susan G. Komen Wyoming Race for the Cure.
Another very happy footnote: Blakely-Voyles and her husband never gave up their dream of starting a family despite all of this. They recently adopted a baby girl.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)