My ACS journey started in June of 2003 when I was invited to participate in the local Relay For Life. I had no idea what Relay For Life was at that point. I figured why not, it would be a weekend off work, and I would show up for a couple of hours each day. That is when I was hooked.
In March of 2004, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was the first person in my family to have a cancer diagnosis. Because of the connections I had made at Relay the year before, I knew there were resources available to us. After 18 months my grandfather lost his battle and passed away in 2005.
In December of 2005, my father was diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. What I remember thinking was that this was the last Christmas I would have with my dad. All I knew about cancer was that it takes my loved ones away from me. I kept on my dad to make sure he kept up with his skin cancer screenings and he was very vigilant in doing so. Unfortunately, in 2019, just 1 month after he walked his daughter down the aisle, he was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer, Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Only about 2,000 people a year are diagnosed with this form of cancer. Only 4 hospitals in the United States treat this cancer, and fortunately for us, University of Michigan was one of them. His treatment was only a one-hour drive for us. Dad fought a tough fight but lost his battle August of 2020. As a child, losing your parent is very difficult, but I keep his fight and his story alive in my Relay journey and my advocacy journey though ACS CAN.
My name is CJ Heisler, and I am a caregiver, even though my survivors are no longer with me. I continue to fight back through Relay For Life and advocate through ACS CAN. I live in Olivet, Michigan, and work as a Certified Pharmacy Technician. On most weekends you can find me at the local campground. I also volunteer with my Local Pharmacy Association, where I was just elected as President Elect of The Michigan Society Of Pharmacy Technicians.