BUCKHANNON — At the tender age of 5, Upshur County resident Tiar Heckman and her family have begun the battle of their lives. The family recently embarked on an unfortunate journey, as Tiar is now fighting against a rare and aggressive adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC). In effort to raise awareness for this rare disease and gain financial support for medical and travel costs, Tiar’s family sought the help of The Record Delta to share her story.
Tiar is the daughter of Nicole and Carl Heckman. On September 25, the little girl went in for an MRI, which revealed news that a mass was present. By September 28, surgeons preformed an adrenalectomy to remove the large tumor, including her entire left adrenal gland, then placed her port for future treatments. “The next day, she was home recovering because she is our Wonder Woman Princess and is kicking butt!” exclaimed her “bonus mom” Brittany. Although the tumor on her adrenal gland was removed, the cancer has spread to her lungs where several nodules remain that will require further treatment. However, it was not until October 4 that Tiar and her family received the official diagnosis.
On Monday, October 12, Tiar and her family were in Memphis, Tennessee for her first visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. During their visit, she had to have blood drawn and met with a new team of doctors and staff, Brittany explained.
Tiar’s mother, Nicole stated in a post on Tiar’s Facebook page, “I’m sad we have a reason to even be here, but also so thankful and blessed that Tiar got accepted in the first place. We have only met 2 nurses so far and they were amazing. They made Tiar feel so good. I know we are in the best place for her treatment.”
St. Jude is currently running all new tests to properly attack the ACC in Tiar’s body. According to Brittany, the process of getting accepted into St. Jude was slightly more difficult for Tiar, given she is an out-of-state resident. As of Monday, her treatments are expected to last a duration of 10 months, during which time she will have to remain in Tennessee. The doctors and family are anticipating a good prognosis after the 10 months of treatment.
When asked about Tiar’s thoughts on everything that has transpired during the last few weeks, Brittany stated, “Tiar is just happy to be somewhere that is treating her so well. We are grateful and blessed that the community and our friends and family have come to support us. Without them, this would have been a much harder thing to take in and do to make sure she gets the best treatment.”
Tiar had reportedly been showing unusual symptoms, such as excess body hair by the time she was just two years old. Though doctors thought it was odd, her parents were essentially told it was nothing more. However, within the last year, she started experiencing other symptoms like bad body odor, facial hair, acne and mood swings. Realizing these significant changes, Nicole and Brittany started pushing for more answers. While it was devastating news, they were glad to finally receive a diagnosis that they could begin treating.
The family will be having a drive-by style benefit dinner in the near future to help cover the cost of travel and other expenses during Tiar’s treatment. Decals, bracelets and adrenal cancer awareness t-shirts will also be for sale. All additional proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly to St. Jude, Brittany explained.
Like any child would be, Tiar is scared – wondering why she has to go through this, but she has a great big family from all over that is supporting her and rooting for her, Brittany explained. Tiar loves her animals, playing with her big brother and sister, and gymnastics prior to the pandemic. She is also a kindergarten student in Mrs. Smallridge’s class at Union Elementary School.
To stay updated with Tiar’s journey, follow her Facebook page at “TiarWWP” or “Tiar – Wonder Woman Princess.” A link to her GoFundMe is also available via the Facebook page if you would like to help support Tiar and her family as they battle ACC.