Joanna Heiser

Campaign Created by: Steven Riley

The funds from this campaign will be received by Matthew Heiser.

Raised: USD $ 12,575

Hello Friends! This first paragraph is going to be a summary of the past month & then I will get into what is going on currently. First of all, I apologize for not reaching out to everyone, I have experienced such significant fatigue, it is a struggle just to do any activity! So, at the end of the school year, I wasn't feeling well. I constantly felt nauseated and was tired. My doctor ran some tests & some of my liver levels were high. More blood work was done and the levels in my liver continued to increase. I went for an ultrasound of the liver & masses were seen throughout it.

This week, I had a CT scan & then met with the oncologist yesterday. Not the news I was hoping to hear. I have cancer in the liver & lymph nodes. Stage 4. I have a liver biopsy scheduled for Monday and a bone scan scheduled for Wednesday to figure out what kind of cancer is in my liver & to try to determine the origin of the cancer. I will meet with the oncologist on Monday, July 18th to determine treatment.


Update #21
October 27, 2022
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An update from Joanna herself!  How happy I am that she has the strength and ability to do this again! 

Hi All!


(For those of you who like the summary – scroll to the bottom for bullet points!) Thank you Kerry for providing updates when I was not able! The past four months have been quite an unexpected detour from the journey we anticipated! Thank you for the prayers, love, and support you have given to me as well as to my family! My heart is overflowing with gratitude. I was able to focus on healing and regaining my strength because I knew my family was being cared for in so many different ways with meals, playdates, etc! When I returned home, I continued to receive occupational therapy & physical therapy to increase my strength and I used a walker both in the home and when I had medical appointments. Although having so many steps in our house initially felt like a detriment, it definitely helped me to gain leg strength! For the past two-and-a-half weeks I haven’t needed to use a walker and last week, I graduated from in-home OT and PT services! It is wonderful to be able to walk independently again!! 

A few days after returning home, per my request, Matt shaved my head. Several sweet friends along with my parents and Matt’s parents sent head coverings and hats to keep my head warm- I had no idea how chilly I would be without hair to warm my head! Chemo treatments/immunotherapy continue every 3 weeks. As I progress through these treatments, the side effects have increased (nausea and extreme fatigue). I have required some additional blood transfusions – thank you blood donors for making sure there was a supply!! The good news is that I have very little fluid in my abdomen, which is a sign that my liver function has increased! This week I will have both a bone scan and a CT scan, which will show details of the tumors. Join me in praying the tumors will be gone! I figure God has already performed several miracles in sparing my life in the hospital when medically I should not still be alive, so asking for the cancer to be gone is not too difficult for Him!! Even if He chooses not to heal me or not to heal me at this time, I believe with my whole heart that He has a plan in whatever happens! Matt & I met with an oncology doctor at Johns Hopkins for a second opinion and we were delighted to hear that she would have recommended the same treatment that I am currently receiving! She was very impressed with the improvement in the cancer markers. So I will continue treatment with my current oncologist, who is local, and can contact the oncologist at Hopkins for further treatment options if the current chemo regimen is no longer effective or if I would like another opinion. When I initially walked into the examination room to meet with the Hopkins’ doctor, she said I looked a lot better in person than I did on paper! She had previously worked at a location where patients received liver transplants and she never saw bilirubin levels as high as mine was when I was in the hospital. I told her so many people were praying for me, which is why I am still alive today. So, thank you! Thank you for consistently praying – it has made all the difference in my life. 

Nutshell version:

· Thanks for all your love, support, & prayers

· I am walking independently

· Matt shaved my head

· Chemo is hard

· My oncologist’s treatment plan is the same as I would get at Johns Hopkins

· Prayer requests: I will have both a CT scan & Bone Scan on Wednesday this

week. Pray that the cancer will be gone! 

Thank you,

Joanna Joy


Update #20
September 24, 2022
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Joanna is back home, and so very happy to be there!!!!  There was quite the celebration for her homecoming!!!  Her house and driveway were decorated with balloons, posters and beautiful chalk writing.  The school welcomed her home when she and Matt picked up Joshua by having the faculty and students stand out in front of the school holding posters, yelling and cheering!  Joshua greeted his mom at car line with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  There were SO many tears of joy.  I was so happy that Joanna was able to experience just a glimpse of the outpouring of love and support there has been for her and her family.  There are no words to explain how happy she and all of us are that she is no longer in the hospital or any other facility but back home with her family!  

Joanna's brief time at Encompass Rehab was really great for her.  She was so thankful to be admitted.  While she was there, she worked very hard to regain her leg strength.  It was important to Joanna and Matt for her legs to be steady enough to handle the steps at her house before she went home.  She began receiving PT and OT at home this week.  

After such a scary and exhausting couple of months, Joanna will now focus on getting stronger and battling her cancer.  She received another chemo/infusion treatment last week, and she'll continue to receive them every 3 weeks.  The Oncologist told her yesterday that the latest blood work indicates her numbers are continuing to move in the right direction. Thank goodness.  I saw her today and she admitted that this round of chemo, which was slightly stronger, has been harder on her.  She is feeling tired and nauseous.  Regardless she continues to smile and maintain her sunny disposition. ❤

A few other updates:

A friend of Joanna's, Jennifer Edwards, has arranged a blood drive in honor of Joanna.  Blood donation is near and dear to Joanna's heart.  She is a long-time blood donor and very thankful for the blood she has received on a few occasions while at the hospital.  If you are interested in participating in the blood drive, it will be held on October 1st from 8:30-1pm in Kincaid, a neighborhood near Joanna's house.  Following is some more information.    

Update #19
August 18, 2022
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Joanna is continuing to progress in physical and occupational therapy.  Her liver function is improving significantly.  She has not needed to have dialysis in 10 days which means her kidneys are working on their own!  Her kidneys still need to continue to improve to be working at full capacity but it's a huge step forward that they are working without the support of dialysis for several consecutive days.  Doctors continue to monitor liver and kidney function daily.  

Because Joanna is working hard with PT and OT, the time she is not working she is resting.  She still needs to regain her strength.  Even talking for several minutes wears her out.   She is working so hard and exhibiting that fighting spirit again!  

A date for chemo and immunotherapy is still pending.  In the interim, Joanna can allow her body to get as healthy as it can before the next treatment.  The oncologist indicates that the immunotherapy is continuing to work between treatments.  

Joanna shared with Matt and family that she looks forward to when she is able to receive visitors, but for the time being she feels it's best for her to focus on rehabilitation, rest and regaining her strength.  She also wants to be sure she remains healthy for her upcoming treatments.  Joanna has asked that we continue to convey how much she appreciates all the prayers, love and support she is receiving.  It's unbelievable how much progress she has made in the past few weeks!


Update #18
August 12, 2022
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Joanna has been progressing in physical and occupational therapies each day.  While she has seen improvement each time, there is a lot to regain after lying down for so long.  Pray for continued and increasing strength.  Also pray that she will not become discouraged but will have the emotional strength to push forward.

Doctors continue to say her progress is not medically explainable as far as the quick kidney recovery, the return to liver function, and simply recovering her strength!!!  Praise God!

 Decisions are being made about when to begin which cancer therapies.  Please pray for wisdom for all involved in Joanna's care.

Update #17
August 8, 2022
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Joanna was discharged from the ICU today and moved back to the step down unit!  Her color has improved and she is very talkative!  The issue that caused her to return to the ICU has been resolved and her overall health continues to progress.  The targeted cancer treatment (immunotherapy) seems to be working too!  Oncologists said that the largest tumor on the liver has shrunk from 11cm to 4cm!  Lymph nodes appear to be getting smaller and softer which is also a good sign. Joanna is continuing to receive dialysis.  Her long-time friend Cindy is in from Honduras and she’s been helping in so many ways!  

Matt is feeling blessed and encouraged to see how God is working through Christian doctors, circumstances within the hospital and people caring for Joanna.  Joanna continues to need a lot of rest so she can regain her strength.  Physical Therapy is expected to start up now that she is in the step down unit.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for Joanna.    

Update #16
August 4, 2022
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It's been a while since there was an update so attempts here will be made to sum up events from the past week.  As of last weekend, Joanna was in the ICU and doing well.  Earlier this week, she was moved out of ICU as she continued to progress.  However, it really has been a roller coaster ride.  Coordination and messaging between medical staff, Joanna, family, and insurance coverage has been very complicated and hard to fully understand.  This undoubtedly has been the reason that it's been difficult to provide a firm update.  Yesterday, August 4th, Joanna was readmitted to the ICU after she experienced some complications.  This came as a surprise since recent reports had been optimistic.  Some family and friends gathered in the ICU waiting room in much prayer as her condition was unknown.  Matt was soon able to visit Joanna and returned with great news that she was conscious, looking healthy, and talking!!  A big sigh of relief as many prayers of thanks were given.

Update on Thursday morning, August 4th.   In the early morning hours after a CT scan, an ulcer in Joanna’s stomach was discovered.  A procedure to stop the bleeding pursued and she is doing well.  This morning at just after 9:00a.m. Matt sent an update from the hospital, “Joanna's doing ok today, tired but fully alert, chatting with the nurses and joking with them.” 

Update #15
July 29, 2022
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Joanna continues to improve!!

Keep her in your prayers!

Update #14
July 28, 2022
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More good news!

Both the ICU doctor and the Kidney doctor said Joanna's numbers are continuing to head in the right direction.  Her liver enzymes are bouncing around, not getting worse and not getting better but that's ok for right now. In time the cancer treatment will hopefully do its job and we should see those numbers go down as well.

Update #13
July 27, 2022
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The nephrologist (kidney specialist) gave an update that Joanna's kidneys are functioning and have progressed since her first and second dialysis treatments.  The ICU doctor reported that Joanna is showing awesome signs of improvement!  Her energy is back today, she's talking and responding well, and she is drinking fluids.  The doctor would like her to start eating more so her nutrition boosts up and take her off blood pressure meds.  Her skin color is also looking much better and her blood cultures came back negative for any sepsis.  The doctores want to get Joanna out of bed soon to start walking around and get the body moving, and very soon (not sure what day) she will be moved out of the ICU into a step down unit.

ALL GOOD SIGNS!! Now we just need to give the liver time to let the immunotherapy infusion cancer treatment kill off those cancer cluster cells.

Joanna got a REAL lunch today, no pureed food. She had chicken noodle soup and a hummus wrap sandwich. Her stomach needs time to adjust to the food but she's working hard at it. 👍

Update #12
July 26, 2022
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This morning we received word that Joanna’s kidneys are beginning to shutdown and they are planning to do dialysis. She is not alert like she was yesterday.  Pray for guidance for the doctors as they map a course for her recovery. Matt continues to be by her side and is also in need of prayer for strength and understanding. 

Update #11
July 25, 2022
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Joanna is showing progress and doing a little better than yesterday. She’s had the energy today to smile, talk and move a bit more.  It’s getting towards the end of the day now so she’s tired and needs to get more rest. 

Update #10
July 24, 2022
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Joanna has been up and alert more today then in the past 3 days. The doctors cleared her to start eating solid foods!!!

Update #9
July 24, 2022
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Joanna is still in ICU but her vitals are stable.   She continues to fight! 

Update #8
July 23, 2022
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Kincaid Forest Pool: Free lemonade and chick-fil-a fundraiser!!!!!

Saturday 2-5!!!

Stop by to support JOANNA!!!!!

Update #7
July 23, 2022
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Prayers Needed!  Joanna is still in ICU and continuous prayers are needed for her and the Heiser family.  

While yesterday's feedback was that she was in stable condition, she still needs a great deal of prayer and guidance for those at her side.

Update #6
July 22, 2022
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Update as of about Friday 22nd@1:30pm

 Joanna has responded positively to all the prayers and care she is receiving at NOVA.  Her vitals are good and stable.  There is a great deal of optimism with her current state but the next 48 hours are critical.  

Update #5
July 22, 2022
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Joanna is resting comfortably since earlier this morning, Friday 22nd. She is being well taken care of at Landsdowne NOVA. 

Thursday evening Pastor Mike also stopped by to visit and pray. 

Update #4
July 21, 2022
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As Joanna was receiving treatments tonight, the oncologist felt she needed additional medical support and chose to admit her to the hospital. Please pray now for wisdom for the doctors and a miracle for our dear friend. 

Update #3
July 21, 2022
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Please note that we will be posting updates to this site moving forward.  

Here is what we learned yesterday, July 20th.

The results from the pathology report finally came back.  Joanna's oncologist confirmed the cancer has metastasized from the breast.  It is good news that the results have come back because now they have a better understanding of Joanna's situation, and they can aggressively target the source of cancer.  

Today, July 21st:

Joanna is receiving immunotherapy.  She will not be receiving chemotherapy tomorrow as planned.  The Oncologist indicated that the immunotherapy is targeted and longer lasting and that her body needs time for the infusion to work.  

Joanna shared the following today "I can feel people lifting up their hands and praying over me.  I can feel your prayers carrying me."  

Please pray that the immunotherapy attacks the cancer cells in her liver.  

Please continue to pray relentlessly for Joanna's healing and pray for comfort and strength for Matt and Joshua.

Update #2
July 20, 2022
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Biopsy results have finally been returned which have provided a better understanding of Joanna's situation.  She will now be getting her first immunotherapy infusion on Thursday, 21st and chemo treatment on Friday, 22nd.


Thursday, July 14, 2022
July 14, 2022
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We are at a critical stage:  liver function declining very rapidly, chemo starts Friday, July 15 @ 11:00.

Prayers needed specifically for the chemo to STOP and REVERSE the progression of the cancer in the liver so that the liver can begin working again. 


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