Cancer (and Hurricane Ian) survivor: Heather Arszman-Lamb

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 10/6/22

Heather Arszman-Lamb is a breast cancer survivor, but it should be noted that she’s also a Hurricane Ian survivor.

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Cancer (and Hurricane Ian) survivor: Heather Arszman-Lamb


Heather Arszman-Lamb is a breast cancer survivor, but it should be noted that she’s also a Hurricane Ian survivor.

“I’m supposed be recuperating on the beach,” Arszman-Lamb, who has been marketing and communications director at Aristoi Classical Academy since 2019, said. “It’s not quite turning out that way. For the first time in five days, we’re in Orlando and there’s this big, glowing orb up there in the sky, and it’s warming everything, and you can actually see outside now. I think they call it the sun.”

She’s earned the right to joke after suffering, with so many others, through a hurricane that last week passed through Florida, destroying much in its path. Ian became a tropical storm, entered the Atlantic Ocean, reformed as a hurricane, and then hit South Carolina.

Arszman-Lamb and her family have long spent their vacations in Sanibel, Florida, which is on the state’s Gulf Coast. The family evacuated to Orlando to ride out the storm. But things have gotten better.

“It feels really good,” Arszman-Lamb said. “Yeah, we’re getting there. But Sanibel is pretty much—we’ve gone there for 47 years every year and it’s not looking good over there right now, which is just crushing.”

Breast cancer is part of Arszman-Lamb’s family history. Her mother died from it 25 years ago, and two of her aunts died from it as well. She regularly had mammograms, but when she found a lump and wasn’t comfortable with her doctor’s assessment, a girlfriend suggested getting a second opinion. She went to the MD Anderson Cancer Center for more mammograms, biopsies and other tests.

“They said, it’s actually stage II and it’s rather large,” Arszman-Lamb said.

An unwanted diagnosis

Remembering her family history, Arszman-Lamb said she had some ideas of how to proceed, including a double mastectomy. She didn’t want to go through what her mother did.

Her doctors recommended a mastectomy. Following that, she needed several rounds of chemotherapy, and then four-in-eight-half weeks of daily radiation treatment.

Her treatment came during the height of the pandemic. She remembered that her husband had to drop her off at the front door of the West Houston office at MD Anderson in Katy. She washed and messed herself up, and then went to the elevators report for treatment.

“The whole care team was just phenomenal,” Arszman-Lamb said. “Very gracious, very attentive. They walk you through the doors.”

Arszman-Lamb said after the nurses got her ready for treatment, they excused themselves, returning with visors, helmets and double gowns on, in addition to being masked up and protected from head to toe. This was not because of the pandemic, but because of the chemotherapy treatment to be administered.

“It’s a little intimidating,” Arszman-Lamb said. “They sit you down, they hook you up to the IV, they let you look out the window and you sit there and you don’t feel too badly in the very beginning. Your body sometimes gets a little bit warm and you feel that tingling all over your body. After about 45 minutes you feel okay.”

Sitting still, with a poison being put into your body, can be cause for reflection.

“I prayed for all my friends and gave it all up for them,” Arszman-Lamb said. “Or I read my book or caught up on emails or what have you. After the chemo, it took about an hour-and-a-half to two hours because of the clean out all the lines and stuff like that after they were all done.”

Being reflective is important, but so is staying active.

“My worst days when I just went home and sat,” Arszman-Lamb said. “I will go home and continue to be active and take walks or go into work afterwards I felt so much better because I was talking to people and using my brain and thinking and working and being productive. If I would just sit and mope in my chair everything that exponentially worse for me. And typically, my chemo was on Friday and then back to work on Monday.”

Following the chemotherapy, Arszman-Lamb got to ring the bell—symbolic of being cancer free and a major milestone for all breast cancer patients. Then came radiation therapy. When that was done, she got to ring the bell a second time.

Family and friends

Family and colleagues play important roles in helping cancer patients deal with their situations.

“I could not have made it without my family and friends and colleagues at Aristoi, quite frankly,” Arszman-Lamb said. “My husband is an incredible, incredible person. He’s Mr. Wonderful anyway, and this, he just stepped up. He had to take care of me and then we have three teenagers at home, too. So, the craziness is already going on.”

Arszman-Lamb said her Aristoi colleagues remain supportive. She’s been on a leave of absence during her cancer treatment and took some time for recuperation in Florida when Ian came along. She expects to return to Aristoi in mid-October.

“They really rallied around me,” Arszman-Lamb said, adding that several of her colleagues have gone through cancer treatments themselves. She said her colleagues would bring wigs, scarves and hats to wear. They brought books for her to read. They also made and brought meals to her family.

Arszman-Lamb blamed much of her situation on COVID in that she did not get a mammogram during the pandemic as she typically did. Had she had that mammogram, doctors would have caught the cancer earlier. She urged women not to hesitate to get a mammogram.

“It doesn’t matter what hospital you go to,” Arszman-Lamb said. “Just go and get it done. It’s about an hour-and-a-half out of your life, and if they catch it early, there’s so many easier things that they can do. You don’t have to go through all the surgeries that I went through because mine was totally different and a little bit further along. Don’t put yourself in that position. You don’t have to.”

breast cancer, Aristoi Classical Academy