In Eric’s memory, Heather decided to give back to the program that helped her during the toughest time in her life. In 2019, she established the Heather and Eric Paradis Cancer Support Fund, an endowment that supports an additional clinical psychology intern at DCPSP. Today, the program has three interns that rotate every year.
“We are so thankful for Heather’s gift,” says Tamara Somers, PhD, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and codirector of the Cancer Behavioral Management and Support Clinic rotation, which trains the interns who work with the support program. “It has allowed us to add a third intern to the clinic who is dedicated to bone marrow transplant patients and their families, and we have been able to increase our services to this group and across the cancer center.”
Heather hopes that in addition to supporting patients and family members, the intern will support staff members who care for patients. “When I started talking with a therapist, I not only dealt with the fact I was losing my husband. I also dealt with all the grief that I had from losing patients that I never really dealt with before.” Somers says that she hopes to be able to provide support to staff members through mindfulness and relaxation activities in the future, under the guidance of the clinical psychology intern.
Heather has also made a bequest commitment that will provide additional support to the DCPSP, the Duke Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy Program, and Duke Athletics.
In addition to providing financial resources, Heather volunteers as a member of the Duke Oncology Patient Advisory Council, which works to improve the patient experience. The council created a Duke Cancer Center Survivorship Day event that is held yearly, developed a distress screening process for patients, and more. Heather provided her input on the revised patient resource booklet that DCPSP hands out to new patients and reviewed the content of new questionnaires for patients. She is also on the board of the Duke Cancer Institute Supportive Care and Survivorship Center. “The ability to use my knowledge and experience working with Eric to continue to help people gives purpose and meaning to my life,” she says.
Last year, around Eric’s birthday in November, Heather hosted a fundraising event for the Duke Cancer Institute Supportive Care and Survivorship Center at her home. This year, due to COVID-19, she hosted it via Zoom video conferencing. “It's a way to remind us of Eric and support the center,” she says.
This article appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Breakthroughs magazine. Breakthroughs is produced twice yearly by Duke Cancer Institute Office of Development.