During her monthly self-breast exam, Sharla Heightman was alarmed by something she felt. She contacted her gynecologist, Dr. Peter Dureska, about her concerns. After her mammogram came back inconclusive, Dr. Dureska didn’t stop there. She went on to have an MRI and then a biopsy that led to a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.
Sharla with her family.
“I was really blindsided because I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family.”


Sharla says she had a “remarkable journey” with the support of Dr. Dureska, QMG Surgeon Dr. Christian Zwick, and QMG Oncologist Dr. Raymond Smith.

“Dr. Smith was very encouraging throughout. When I had to choose an oncologist, Dr. Smith’s name was the name that kept coming up to the top of the list. On the day of my first appointment, he told me his wife is a 10-year breast cancer survivor. At that moment, I thought if she can do this, I can do this. I knew it was a ‘God’ moment to have a doctor who knew exactly what I was going through.”
Through all of this, Sharla says she has a new perspective on life and wants to pay it forward.
“Some things in life you always thought were a big deal really aren’t. You begin to prioritize what’s important in life. I look at things differently. I had a huge friend and family support group, and now it’s my time to pay it forward.”
Sharla had a double mastectomy in July. She will continue with follow-up appointments with Dr. Smith and will take medication for the next five to 10 years to help prevent the recurrence of her cancer.