The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk serves as an inspiring, empowering and comforting event, made possible by those who share, remember, and advocate for the fight against cancer. Each year, we here at LLS are graced with countless stories that demonstrate and display the spirit of this event. Heather Lee’s story is one of them.
In 1982, at the age of one, Heather immigrated to the United States from China, where her family planted roots in Echo Park. After attending John Marshall High School, she completed her undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley and then returned home to Los Angeles. Heather established a rewarding career and built a rich personal life in Los Angeles, enveloped by a tight knit family, loving friends, and endearing colleagues.
In 2013 she met her fiancé-to-be and, after an almost five year courtship, accepted his proposal in 2018 next to a flowing waterfall in New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, Heather received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
After three rounds of chemotherapy, a brutal round of radiation, and a bone marrow transplant, her prognosis was looking promising. However, in October 2019, her leukemia relapsed - taking her life one month later. Heather passed away peacefully and surrounded by friends and family. She was 38 years old.
It was one of Heather’s cousins who most accurately summarized the grief of losing Heather so early - “I want my Heather back.” Whether that meant having her back to travel, enjoy new restaurants, dance the night away, play hostess to the best gatherings and parties, debrief the latest reality show episodes, or serve as the inspirationally warm friend…everyone wanted their Heather back.
In all she did, Heather was driven by her love for her family and friends and career. She was taken far too early. Throughout Heather’s fight with AML, she sought ways to bring awareness to the disease and was passionate about finding a cure. She worked with organizations to highlight under-represented bone marrow donors, she encouraged blood and platelet donations through social media campaigns, and she promoted events such as LLS’s Light The Night.
It was Heather’s goal to attend last November’s Light The Night in Los Angeles. While her illness prevented her from attending in person, Heather’s friends, family, and support system attended on her behalf and have raised more than $10,000 to advance research in her honor.
Many of us reading this story can replace Heather’s name with somebody “we want back.” We owe it to all our “Heathers” taken too soon to honor their memories and fulfill the dreams they were robbed of achieving. We owe it to them to improve the lives of those affected by cancer and do everything in our power to work toward a cure. LLS thanks Heather’s family and friends for sharing the beautiful memories and spirit of Heather Lee. Our work is motivated by her example.