CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- As a seasoned investigative journalist, Laura French fights hard in uncovering the truth. The married mother of three from Chesterfield cherishes her career.
“I love being able to be involved in people’s lives and bring change,” said Laura. “That is so incredibly rewarding. That is what I love about my job is that it’s different every single day.”
But when the cameras and lights click off the veteran reporter finds herself fighting another battle, a chapter of Laura's life that goes deeper than any investigation.
“It was a horrible feeling,” said Laura. “There are so many things that go through your head.”
Laura is helping her father stay alive.
Joseph Heinzen was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), one of the deadliest blood cancers known to doctors.
“It was a really exciting time in my life and then I got a phone call,” she said.
The average life span of someone with AML is five years. Laura said her dad is beating the odds. Mr. Heinzen was diagnosed eight years ago, but his journey has been a steep climb.
Mr. Heinzen has endured a stem cell transplant, long painful hospital stays, a massive heart attack and the stinging loss of his job and his home on the same day.
“The future is very unknown for my dad,” said Laura. “And he is living. But he is not living.”
Mr. Heinzen said he doesn't want to be a burden.
“It is not the effect it has on you… it’s the effect it has on everybody around you,” said Laura’s father, Joseph Heinzen. “I can honestly say I was never afraid of dying. I was more worried about the impact it was going to have on my kids.”
Laura and her sisters are rallying by his side.
“There were several times when I thought he wasn’t coming out of that hospital, but he continues time after time after time and shows us how strong he is,” said Laura’s sister, Gretchen McConnell.
“I think it makes you realize that life is short. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t take health for granted because tomorrow is not promised,” added Laura.
Laura in particular is shouldering an enormous responsibility. Laura, who beat cancer herself, is competing in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's “Man and Woman of the Year” campaign with 11 other professionals across central Virginia.
“It is such a challenge but I’m going to do everything I can to raise as much money as I can,” said Laura.
Each dollar raised helps Laura get her closer to the goal. She didn't hesitate to help LLS. The organization assisted Laura's dad when the situation appeared grim.
“If I raise $50,000 I get to name a research grant of my choosing in my dad’s name,” said Laura.
Laura French vows to stand by the man who gave her life.
“There is no one in this world like family,” said Laura. “There are really no losers, except for cancer, in this fight.”
Winning the title of “Woman of the Year” matters little to Laura. What is most important to this journalist is hoping and praying her father's story has a happy ending.
“I do believe that this experience will make it possible that his legacy will live on and it will change lives and help in the end to save lives,” said Laura.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Man and Woman of the Year” gala is May 20 at The Altria Theatre. If you would like to find out more information, click here.
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