By Jessie Reestman
Orange ribbons pinned to t-shirts with the slogan, “Nobody fights alone,” a community organized benefit, text messages, phone calls, and many prayers.
These are just some of the ways that students, family, and friends have shown their support to EPS band teacher Eric Heithoff and his family since his battle against leukemia began in early September.
Recently, as the Wolfpack Varsity Boys Basketball team took to the court to compete in the Madison Holiday Tournament, each player showcased a small orange ribbon tied on their shoelace to acknowledge that the latest medical procedure in Eric’s journey was set to take place. As it was on that day, their teacher and friend had undergone a stem cell transplant. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Eric’s wife, Emily, about the procedure and the days ahead.
Emily began, “On December 21st, Eric was readmitted to UNMC for a stem cell transplant as part of his treatment against leukemia,” she said.
In the months leading up to this date, Eric had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and experienced many of the difficult side effects that accompany the treatments. There were many nights in and out of the hospital that followed, she said, but positive news eventually came as the leukemia went into remission and a possible donor match had been found. Without going into great detail about the procedure, she explained,
“Everything is going well for him. He has tolerated the treatments well and, so far, has had no negative reactions to the cells. He will spend the next 100 days in Omaha, living with my parents. He will go in twice weekly for appointments for labs to make sure the stem cells are doing their job.”
She continued, “Eric’s mother, Rhonda, has taken some time off work to act as his primary caregiver as he heals and gains his strength back.”
Eric has also been sharing his experiences on Facebook to keep friends and family updated on his condition. In one of his most recent updates, just before the procedure, Eric wrote, “As long as this round goes as smoothly as my last three rounds of chemo, everything will work out just fine. I’m in the best place possible for this kind of treatment, and I can attest to seeing the stem cell defrost buggy in the hallway, that they do this all the time.”
Eric’s strong, positive outlook is a noticeable attitude shared by his wife, Emily, as she described how she and her children are handling life during this time. “The kids and I are in a good routine at home. We have had so much help from the community, and we appreciate everyone that has gone above and beyond for us. We are truly blessed to live in such a caring community.”