After losing her husband to cancer, Kathie Heimerdinger is on a mission to give cancer patients hope.
On the day before Thanksgiving 2010, Kathie Heimerdinger’s world as she knew it began to unravel.
That’s the day her husband, Mike, then the 58-year-old offensive coordinator for the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, learned he had a rare, aggressive form of cancer that would claim his life almost a year later on September 30, 2011.
Kathie was determined to carry on the legacy of her husband— “Dinger,” as his friends and players knew him — and not let his death be in vain. She and her children established The Heimerdinger Foundation, a non-profit, in December 2011 to honor his memory. The foundation is aimed at increasing awareness of healthy, nutritious meal options and complementary and integrative therapies for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
“Dinger was a humble person. He was never boastful about what his position was,” Kathie says. “But I think he’d be proud of the fact that we are helping people who have to go through what he went through during the last year of his life.”
An Alternative Approach
Five days after Dinger’s cancer was discovered, he began chemotherapy treatments. Still, the hard-charging coach continued to work every game. “I know people think it’s a big deal that I’m going to work,” Dinger told The Boston Globe. “I just happen to have a disease, but I’m not dying and I’m not going down the drain and I don’t feel special.”
After six months of chemotherapy, Dinger’s doctors revised his prognosis, informing him there was little else they could do to stem the cancer. Kathie began to pull all-nighters in front of a computer, researching various clinics that offered integrative and alternative treatments that could help her husband fight the disease. “When they told him they had done all they could for him, we sought other answers,” she says.
The couple’s search took them to the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, IL, where the Heimerdingers learned about complementary/alternative approaches to stem the disease’s siege. While at the center, Dinger saw a reflexologist, dietician, nutritionist and massage therapist. The couple even received lessons on how to cook meals with whole foods that would promote his overall health.
“It was a total mind, body and spirit treatment, instead of just chemo,” Kathie says. “He was given hope for healing.”
The experience was pivotal for her and eventually inspired the mission of The Heimerdinger Foundation. “It turned me on to the idea that there are other things we could do,” she says.
“I’m a firm believer that you have to know what causes a disease to know how to cure it.”