Massachusetts Teacher Finally Diagnosed With Cancer After Medical Complaints Were Dismissed as Anxiety

Heidi Richard
Heidi Richard, second from left.Heidi Richard/GivenGain

The teacher said she was extremely ill for a year before finally being diagnosed with cancer.

Massachusetts elementary school teacher Heidi Richard says she knew something was wrong. She had excruciating stomach pain that kept her awake at night and she was losing a lot of weight.

A nurse practitioner said it was probably stress. Richard was tested for mono several times, she said. For a year, she bounced between tests, and prescriptions. Nothing helped, she said.

"Something wasn’t right, I said. I know my body, I told them. But the replies came back with authority. You’re young. You must be anxious. You’re under stress. Maybe it’s mono. It could be acid reflux," Richard wrote in an online essay about why she is running in the Boston Marathon on Sunday. 

Finally, she was given an cat scan, and the diagnosis was cancer. "Diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, specifically," she said. "I had spent an entire year afraid to raise my voice to those whom I perceived to be more knowledgeable in this area, when in reality I knew something was really wrong all along."

That was in 2020. For the next year, she underwent many rounds of chemotherapy. Richard received a stem cell transplant in January 2021. Now in remission, she is undergoing immunotherapy to help prevent a recurrence.  

A lifelong runner, Richard is gearing up for Sunday's grueling race, and she is participating on behalf of DetecTogether, a group dedicated to teaching folks how to detect cancer early. 

"If I can raise money for DetecTogether by running the Boston Marathon, they can get this message out to even more people and lives will change," she wrote.

"I’m not going to be fast, but I’m going to find my joy out there on that course," she said.

You can donate to Richard's run for DetecTogether on her fundraising site here.

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