Heather Jardin has been diagnosed with cancer again, and her friends refuse to take a backseat in the effort to get her on the mend. Next Friday, May 14, the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs will host a huge evening event of music and food.
They are calling it Help Heather Beat Cancer, and admission is $20. The band Mercy Beat run by Rick Padilla will play music. Special guests John O’Toole, Loira Burra and others will perform. All food will donated. There will be a silent auction. The event runs from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Volunteers are still putting the finishing touches on the event, which will be run by a lot of people who know Heather, and many more who care.
Miss Jardin sat on a large stone in the backyard of the house where she lives in Oak Bluffs on Wednesday afternoon. Right next to her was Wylee, a 10-year-old border collie mix. Heather lives with her fiance, Jesse Ward.
Since she was diagnosed with the return of acute myelogenous leukemia, the couple has postponed their wedding planned for June 19. It was going to take place in a garden at Morning Glory Farm, where Heather has worked for almost a dozen years.
This is a terrible time for her, she said, both because of the return of the disease and the necessary steps she has to take to beat it. Both she and Mr. Ward want so much just to have a normal life, and not be the center of attention. But there are added costs associated with the journey this time around, because Heather needs a bone marrow transplant.
Last February it seemed as if all had returned to normal in her life. She was at Morning Glory Farm where the crew was getting ready for another season. Mr. Ward works as a carpenter.
“I was working,” she said, looking back to when she first learned about the latest diagnosis. Her leukemia had been in remission since 2008. “I had no symptoms. It was to be my first six-month checkup. We assumed everything was fine because I didn’t feel sick,” she said.
“It turned out the blood work was off. Right then and there, they wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy, because that is the only way they can diagnose what is happening,” she said.
“Jesse and I were planning our wedding. This was not going to happen,” she said. “I was in denial.”
But then the cruel truth was put to her. “According to the doctor, it is my only choice, really. Without treatment the leukemia will come back 100 per cent. It may have taken two years for it to come back, but it can come back faster the next time.”
So on May 15 Heather will begin a treatment protocol that includes heavy chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. She will be staying on the same floor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where she was last treated. She’ll know many of the nurses.
“It is scary. I don’t want to do it, but I have to,” she said.
“If all works the way we plan, I will be getting out the same week that the wedding was to take place,” she said.
Heather comes from a well-known Vineyard family. Her late mother, Lynn, used to work at the Edgartown A& P, and her grandfather Frank Jardin worked for years as the A& P butcher. “I have all kinds of relatives who have worked there,” she said.
The 1999 regional high school graduate has been working at Morning Glory Farm for more than a decade. “I manage the herb garden, but I have had my hands into everything,” she said. In 2008, she started a Facebook page for current and past employees of Morning Glory Farm, on a lark, just to see who was out there. “I think it is up to 130 people in the group now,” she said.
Heather has health insurance, but it does not cover all the costs associated with her treatment. Fiercely independent by nature, she did not want any fundraisers. “I don’t like asking for help,” she said. “But the first fundraiser that was held was amazing, the way the community came out,” she said.
That event was held at the Portuguese American Club in March of 2008. “It is still embarrassing to me,” she said.
Her friends include Chris White, owner of Edgartown Pizza, and Bonnie Parent, along with others, who have again pooled their resources to make next week’s fundraiser a success. Mike Barnes, owner of Aboveground Records, helped organize the musicians.
Ms. White said this week the silent auction has attracted hundreds of donations. “Everybody has been so great. The local businesses community has been overly supportive. There are charter fishing trips, $100 gift certificates to restaurants, there is jewelry. It will be a great night,” she said.
Heather said: “They really have rallied. There are so many people that I don’t even know that have donated to the auction. It is amazing to me. How do you repay these people? It is hard. I am very thankful. How do I say thank you to all these people, and let them know that it really means a lot?”
For those unable to attend the Friday night event, contributions may be mailed to You’ve Got a Friend Foundation, P.O. Box 1317, West Tisbury, MA 02575. A note should say that the check is for Heather Jardin.