Healing Through Healthy Living

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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.

 
Mike Heimerdinger; photo by Joe Robbins

 

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.”

 

 

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A New Beginning

After her husband’s death, Kathie began to chart out what life would look like without Dinger, who was the family’s sole breadwinner.

 

She knew she wanted to refinance the mortgage on their home in Colorado, where Dinger had worked for the Denver Broncos as an assistant head coach during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. She also decided she would downsize, as well as move back to the Nashville, TN, area. “We just thought we’d always end up in Nashville and retire here,” Kathie says. “It just felt like home to us.”

 

Through her realtor and a U.S. Bank Home Mortgage contact in Denver, Kathie connected with The Private Client Reserve in Nashville. There, she built a relationship with Tom Fox, Managing Director of The Private Client Reserve’s Entertainment and Pro Sports Group. Fox helped her refinance her mortgage on her Denver area home and transition back to Nashville in August.

“It’s nice to have someone involved who’s really like a friend,” Kathie says of Fox. “It’s nice to know I can rely on him to help.”

 

Fox also helped Kathie and her adult children — Alicia and Brian, a scout with the St. Louis Rams —with The Heimerdinger Foundation’s financial services needs. “Kathie and the Heimerdinger family are a great example of how The Private Client Reserve’s Entertainment and Pro Sports Group assists in all aspects of a client’s needs,” Fox says.

 

A Mission to Heal

In November 2012, Kathie launched the foundation’s newest initiative, Meals 2 Heal, which offers healthy meals free of charge for cancer patients and their families. The goal is that dietary changes will help them fight the disease, just as Kathie believes they helped her husband.

 

As part of Meals 2 Heal, high school students cook the meals while learning about the components of a healthy diet, which in turn teaches the next generation of adults to eat well.

 

 

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The idea came to Kathie while she was reading Nourishing Connections, a recipe book created by Ceres Community Project in Sonoma County, CA. The project provides free meals to those struggling with debilitating diseases. “Since Nashville didn’t have a program like that, we decided to create a similar concept,” she says.

 

Staying True to Dinger's Passions

 

“I hope to help patients who are going through cancer to make their time a little easier, and also teach people about healthier eating options.” Kathie Heimerdinger a wellness panel chaired by a physician and 12 practitioners, 

including a nutritionist, massage/reflexologist, acupuncturist and homeopath. The panel gives monthly presentations on healthy living topics.

 

From the day she learned of her husband’s illness to the day she launched Meals 2 Heal, Kathie describes the entire experience as transformative. “The experience has changed my life,” she says. “I just hope to help others who are going through cancer to make their time a little easier, and also teach people about healthier eating options.”

 

For more information on how to get involved, visit HeimerdingerFoundation.com.

 

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