A woman’s journey of hope

As her cancer spreads and the effects of treatment take a devastating toll, Belgium mother plans a trip to Houston clinic that may offer her the best chance of survival

HEIDI SPRANG HAS been fighting cancer for a few years and is in need of funds to get to a specialty treatment center in Texas. Besides her husband and three children, Sprang gets comfort from Cody, her golden retriever. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Heidi Sprang of Belgium is looking to head south, and it has nothing to do with Wisconsin’s winter weather.

Sprang, 39, who in 2017 was treated for a rare connective tissue cancer, pleomorphic lipsarcoma, and thyroid cancer, has had the former disease return.

The cancer went into Sprang’s bones, triggering aggressive chemotherapy and radiation in December. 

“They think they took care of the two spots that showed up on my bones, but now it’s on my liver,” she said.

Sprang may need more chemotherapy, and she’s hoping to talk to an expert about future treatment. The MD Anderson Center in Houston is known as the country’s best for treating sarcoma.

Sprang, whose family has been sliding further into debt thanks to medical bills, needs a way to get there.

A fundrasier at the Moose Lodge near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is scheduled for April 13. The band Doo Wop will perform and there will be food, drinks, raffles, prayer bears for sale and a silent auction.

On May 19, Allure Salon & Spa in Grafton will give haircuts for donations. A fundraiser in Ozaukee County in summer is in the works.

Sprang is recovering from a couple of conditions before she can go. She recently had a bout of pneumonia and spent two weeks in the hospital. She has been improving after a third round of antibiotics.

But one of her two most recent chemotherapy  drugs was a toxic variety that damaged her heart. It also caused her to lose her hair and made her sick.

The heart damage has caused her to have a no-salt diet and to monitor her weight, pulse and blood pressure regularly.

“And I get out of breath doing just normal things. It’s kind of devastating because I used to love to do things with my family that involved a lot of walking,” she said, adding they liked to go to the zoo and museums.

She knew the drug was toxic to her heart before treatment but was given a larger-than-recommended pharmaceutical dose and didn’t find out until afterward.

“It’s devastating to know the chemo drug did it,” she said.

Since the heart is a muscle, Sprang said it can strengthen over time, but it won’t get back to where it used to be.

“I am kind of stubborn. I don’t want to be pushed around in a wheelchair,” she said.

The heart condition has taken surgery off the table as a treatment option and has eliminated taking a plane to Texas.

Sprang hasn’t been able to work, and disability pay took half a year to kick in, making things tough financially not to mention the emotional toll on her family of five. Her husband Jason, she said, is the strong one.

Sprang’s youngest daughter Natalie, now 7, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was 1, and had to get a prosthetic eye. She is now cancer free.

“It’s just hard on all of us. We felt like we just went through it with her and now we’re going through it with me,” she said.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494
 

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