Heather Deanda is a fighter.
“Single mom, you know I have two kids, and it’s just a scary feeling to not know like– to have the unknown,” she described.
The 41-year-old mom was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in the middle of a pandemic.
“It was large, probably about the size of a golf ball,” the Fishers native described her mass. “I wanted to make excuses for it. I didn’t want to think it was something serious.”
Deanda’s boyfriend first discovered the mass; doctors say partners often alert many women to an abnormality in their breasts– and encourage getting checked as soon as something seems wrong.
48-year-old, Christa Wilson found it through an annual mammogram.
“So it was right in the middle of Corona,” she chuckles at the chaos of it all when recounting her journey.
1 week after Indiana shutdown, doctors diagnosed Wilson with breast cancer.
“So the disease itself is trauma, traumatizing, but then on top of that to have to do things alone and try to figure out ways to include your spouse, and your caregivers, and your friends and family. You have to be creative,” Wilson described.
That’s when you need a foundation, one like IWIN.
“Sometimes they just need someone to talk to,” explained Sue Wynn, IWIN’s operations director.
For 20 years, IWIN foundation has supported women as they fight breast cancer.
“They meet you where you’re at,” Wilson said.
The non-profit has helped 6,000 Hoosier women, like Wilson and Deanda.
Over 2 decades, $2.5 million worth of IWIN grants have helped provide women with transportation and meal assistance, among other services.
“A lot of them have been without work, they can’t go to the grocery store– there’s a lot of things they can’t do during this time,” Wynn detailed. “I feel like right now being that neighbor next door is even more important than it was when our organization started 20 years.”
And these women agree.
“Like it’s– you have no idea how much stress, and it’s such a relief to know you have different foundations that have the means to help you,” Deanda said.
“I feel like they were able to be that extra hand for women, to pull them along as they go along this journey,” Wilson echoed.
Both women expect IWIN to be there as they continue their recoveries. Deanda has 2 treatments left before she schedules a mastectomy; Wilson completed radiation therapy and is prepping for reconstructive surgery in 2021.
The breast cancer warriors encourage all women to be proactive, and each stress how early detection saved their lives. Throughout the pandemic, doctors report scheduling fewer mammograms, and encourage women to make their annual appointments.
Meanwhile, IWIN hopes to continue providing support to other families who are dealing with this type of life-changing diagnosis.
IWIN Foundation on average provides $400 grants to women fighting breast cancer.
To receive a grant, you need to apply here.