Joe Heiden, pancreatic cancer survivor and American Ninja Warrior, with family in October 2015.

Brave, inspiring, determined and unstoppable. These are the words that come to mind for Joe Heiden’s four young daughters when they describe their dad. For his wife, Amy Heiden, it’s focus and attitude. These words helped when her own father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, and when less than two years later, her husband was.

The Heiden family in October 2015. Photo by Sarah Delanty Photography.

The Heiden family in October 2015. Photo by Sarah Delanty Photography.

“My strength comes from my relationship with Joe. We’re partners in the truest sense and balance each other out in the toughest times,” she said. “My daughters also give me strength. Watching them thrive and seeing their excitement about the future keeps me focused on what’s important.”

Being active and having a sense of adventure has also helped her get through her husband’s diagnosis and recovery.

“Our family loves to be outside in any type of weather. We enjoy playing soccer, tennis, lacrosse, basketball, walking, running, paddle boarding, rock climbing and camping. Basically anything that involves adventure.”

“My main outlet has been walking. When I walk with friends, I’m able to express myself and feel their love and support. It’s my meditation, and often my sanctuary,” she said.

When asked about being a caregiver, she explains that letting people help you is one of the best things you can do.

Amy and Joe in Long Beach, Wash. This photo was taken in March 2015, two months before Joe’s first surgery.

Amy and Joe in Long Beach, Wash. This photo was taken in March 2015, two months before Joe’s first surgery.

“Open your heart and allow others to help. When Joe was diagnosed, I had a hard time allowing others to see my pain. Friends and family reached out, cooked us meals and picked up our kids and took them to their various activities. These actions taught me more about love than I ever thought possible,” Heiden said.

“Focusing on the things you can do and allowing others to help can build relationships, spread love and teach my kids empathy and acceptance.”

Heiden finds inspiration in her husband’s journey and believes that while his body has been through the trials and challenges of treatment, his positive attitude and mental strength have never been defeated by pancreatic cancer.

“Joe asks the tough questions and finds the answers he needs. When he was diagnosed and his situation seemed bleak, he stayed focused. He knew that if he wanted a fighting chance, he had to think that way. The fact that he continues to do this day in and day out, gives me hope and inspires me.”

Joe recently participated in an American Ninja Warrior competition. Find out more about this hopeful warrior!

Are you a caregiver and looking for resources and support? Call Patient Central and receive one-on-one support at 877-573-9971 or email patientcentral@pancan.org.