Breast Cancer Awareness Month
-A Varsity Story by Dannette Young Heeth, CEH, IP, NR-P
In 1995, I was a 39 year old building service contractor at the pinnacle of my career. I had just been elected to the Board of Directors of Building Service Contractors Association International, was on the Advisory Board of Directors for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, and managed one of the largest BSC companies in Texas. Then on October 31, 1995 I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. My life changed forever.
Early November of 1995, I began surgery and radical radiation. I refused chemotherapy because the oncologists gave me the same survival chances either with or without…less than 18 months. During my recovery period, Arlo Luke, the CEO of Varsity Facility Services, would send me handwritten notes of encouragement to help keep my spirits up. As it became time for me to be installed on the Board of Directors during the BSCAI national convention that year, no one expected me to be strong enough to attend nor able to serve my three year term.
About two hours before the night of the installation, Arlo Luke, Chairman of the BSCAI Board, was practicing his speech in the ballroom. I opened the door, and when he saw me walk in, Arlo ran down the podium stairs, gathered me into his arms and cried with me. After our class of officers was installed to the Board, I asked to speak to the convention. I thanked everyone for their cards, letters and flowers during my ordeal, and said at one point when I woke up from surgery, I had so many flowers in my room that I thought I’d already died. I walked off the stage to a standing ovation in honor of survival of this deadly disease.
I learned that living through cancer does one of two things; it either makes you a stronger and better person, or it absolutely destroys everything you hold dear. It did both to me. While I was going through treatment, I lost my marriage, my business, money and many friends. I also learned the people you would never think you could count on are the very ones that stand with you. I learned that true strength comes from deep within each of us, and that we are all capable of that strength.
In 2011 when I contemplated going back into the building services industry, there was only one company I considered….Varsity Facility Services as they are known internationally for their humanity and compassion to their clients and employees. What a journey and a joy it has been!
This year marks my 20th anniversary of survival, and my hope and wish is that cancer is eradicated in our lifetime. We just lost a precious life at Varsity and have others that are struggling with this fight, but we fight and stand firm together….as a team.