This weekend is our annual American Cancer Society Telethon right here on Channel 13. Every year we highlight Courage Award winners who have either beaten cancer or are still fighting. News13’s Nicole Walters introduces us to Heidi Hooper from Heidi Hooper.
Heidi Hooper makes stunning portraits out of the stuff you discard from your dryer vent drawer. She discovered that talent by default. Hooper was a metalsmith who made armor for jousters at renaissance fairs she felt a pain in her upper arm that she says she knew wasn’t right.
Hooper explains, “I just kept going from doctor to doctor to doctor until I finally had somebody that said I think this might be something else.”
It turned out to be a new rare microscopic cancer that takes a chemical MRI to see it.
Hooper says, “I’m the patient zero from Desmoid Tumors to Desmoitosis so when they hit it with the radiation, instead of killing it, it basically killed the center and the other two sides split and moved up and down my arm.”
She was diagnosed in 1999 and spend the next 15 years battling the disease in different parts of her body and enduring around 20 operations. Over that time, her dexterity and strength became worse and worse. Since Hooper could no longer use a hammer to make the armor, she kept trying to find something she could do and not let cancer defeat her. That ended up being dryer lint.
Hooper says, “I have so little grip that I can actually take the dryer lint with tweezers down to like hairs hanging on one another and that’s how I do the shading on the pieces to make it kind of look like paint.”
Now fans from all over the world buy her artwork and send their link. It’s categorized and takes up an entire closet in her home. She’s won many awards and her pieces are displayed in art galleries throughout the country. Turning trash into cash is only one of the ways she proves anything is possible.
Hooper says, “ Life is a journey so it has ups and downs and you just go with the flow one day at a time.”
Currently she has to wear a compression sleeve on her arm at all times for her Lymphedema caused by radiation. But she has been cancer free for the past three years. That wouldn’t have happened if she had gone with what the first doctor told her.
Hooper adds, “That was the thing that I learned with the cancer, you got to push, you got to keep pushing and be heard, even if you feel like you’re being obnoxious.”
You can watch Heidi Hooper and our other Courage Award recipients on August 14th and 15th from noon to midnight on Blue Ridge Channel 13.