EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Throughout March, Eyewitness News is showcasing remarkable women from right here in NEPA. Eyewitness News anchor Kelly Byrne sat down with one of our four finalists, from our remarkable women competition.
“It’s been a struggle; it’s been a journey. I don’t usually dwell on it at all, because I’m alive,” said Maria Heck.
It’s been 11 years since Heck was diagnosed with breast cancer. A diagnosis that changed her and her life purpose, forever.
“When you have that kind of surgery, you’re obviously cut from here to here. And you have drains as well. And the drains are implanted and stitched, and you have two full drains. So, everything is just so uncomfortable. And there’s also the psychological aspect of it all. And that’s why I couldn’t stand it another minute.”
Heck had multiple surgeries, and each time an uncomfortable ride home from the hospital. A seat belt’s harness rubs against the chest and a pillow, given by the hospital, didn’t seem to help. That’s when she had an idea.
“You put your seatbelt in there, flap it in there, and there you go.”
It’s called the Breast and Chest Buddy and it makes the drive home from the hospital bearable. The foam cushion allows the seatbelt to rest in a more comfortable way.
“I’m so excited to work, because I know I’m sending these out to people who really, really need them and are going to wear them,” Heck said.
The response from those who use it inspires her to keep making more. Turning her situation into a solution for others.
“I get such great, inspirational messages from women. It’s amazing,” said Heck.
With the help of her team, and even some family members, they’ve made 40,000 — some of which are donated. The positive response led her to start the Port-A-Pal for catheter and chemotherapy patients.
“Which has a hole in the foam. And that kind of nestles your port, while keeping the seatbelt off everything,” Heck explained.
More than a decade after her diagnosis, Heck continues to be an advocate for breast cancer awareness.
“Breast cancer does not have to be the end of your life. Early detection, you have to do your self exams.”
Her remarkable work pushes her to keep spirits high and why she was nominated by her friend, Jen, as one of the most remarkable women.
“It’s probably what I was put on this earth to do, to help other people with breast cancer,” said Heck.