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Friends come to aid of Lancaster mom battling rare cancer

Heather Wascak can recall a little more than a year ago when she was pregnant with her second child. She was living a vegetarian lifestyle, regularly exercising and running. But she started feeling short of breath while running and was unable to sleep.

In February of last year, Wascak was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of fallopian tube cancer. She was 34 weeks pregnant. Just a day before her 36th week, she had to undergo an emergency cesarean section for her daughter, Lucia, now 15 months old.

Wascak, who lives in Lancaster, went through six months of chemotherapy and was declared in remission in August.

But the cancer returned four months later, and spread quickly to her spleen, liver and bowel.

Wascak now has a bowel obstruction and is unable to continue alternative treatment, but if doctors can clear it, she wants to continue the alternative.

“At this point, they’ve told me that conventional treatment is not really going to do anything; it’s not really going to save me,” she said.

That’s why family, friends, and the community have hosted fund raisers and benefits over the last year to help raise money for her, her family and alternative treatment.

Two local photographers took a less conventional route to raise money for the Wascak family: an Instagram auction.

Lindsey Robinson, who owns a photography studio in East Aurora, and Jenn Ayers, who owns a studio in Hamburg, reached out to collect donations.

The “Insta-Auction” opens this week and runs until June 23. Participants are encouraged to follow @HelpHeatherHeal on Instagram and bid on the 15 items by commenting on the pictures. Items up for bid include: Photography, music lessons, instrument donations, paintings, sculptures and letterpress art.

The goal is to raise money for medical and daily expenses, in addition to Wascak’s pursuit of alternative treatment at a facility in Mexico. The treatment she uses is a modified version of Gerson therapy that includes supplements, juices, and less aggressive chemotherapy.

Over the last two weeks, Wascak’s bowel obstruction has drastically reduced her energy levels and has left her restricted to IV nutrition and fluids.

She is also no longer the mother she once was. She used to plan day trips to the zoo, park or the movies for her 3-year-old son, Dylan – anything that got them out of the house and kept them active. She used to make Dylan pancakes. Now she lies on the couch. “It’s been really hard because I can’t be the mom I want to be,” she said.

Heather is married to Dan Wascak, her high school sweetheart.

Fallopian tube cancer is so rare that there wasn’t an awareness ribbon until Heather and her mom created one with the help of the National Cancer Institute. She chose purple and zebra print, given the rarity of the disease. The ribbon is printed on Heather’s T-shirt.

“I am the opposite of everything that would be a risk factor of this type of cancer, absolutely 100 percent opposite. It just goes to show that cancer does not discriminate,” she said.