About Heather Millar

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished “active treatment,” two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone.

I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I’ve been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species.

I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I’ve been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I’ve taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride.

When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I’m trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that’s been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I’ll be ready. That’s what this blog is about.


38 Responses to About Heather Millar

  1. melbell07 says:

    Nice blog. I’m 27 and have breast cancer. I have found that the doctors at Dana-Farber have been excellent. Sounds like you’ve had similar experiences at Sloan. You’re in my thoughts – keep positive, pink sister 🙂

  2. heather millar says:

    I am another Heather Millar. I have had breast cancer too. After 51/2 years I am doing very well. All the best Heather. Follow my lead.
    Love, Heather

    • leftbreast says:

      That’s good to hear. I’m hoping that the main issue whether I will eventually be declared cancer-free, but how much ickiness there is between where I am now and healthy. All the best.

  3. Janet Galea says:

    Good to hear how you’re doing, Heather. We left SF and moved back to Los Angeles but it sounds like you have found a wonderful support group – I just love Grace Cathedral.

    Take care, I’m at almost six years and feeling great!

    Best, Janet

  4. Beth Griffin says:

    Hello! I was diagnosed with breast cancer ( left side ) on a monday and underwent a masectomy on Tuesday, 10 years ago this month. I did not have chemo or radiation, but took Tomaxifan for 3 of the 5 years recommended. My doctors didn’t take any lymph nodes in the initial surgery and had to go back in 6 weeks later to take them out for testing. That lymph node surgery was the harder of the two for me to recover from. I get a mamogram every 6 months and have been cancer free ever since. I hold the best healing thoughts for you and ask that you remember these three words that got me through the scary difficult times: “EXPECT THE BEST!”.

  5. Gretchen says:

    Greetings Heather,

    Read the MSNBC article about the cold cap. Until today, I never knew it existed. Thank you for being a “poster child. ” My five year anniversary is 12.30. I hope your five year mark will seem to come as quickly as mine has. You have the right attitude and I wish you all the best.

  6. Yvonne says:

    Nice blog! Keep your head up! I was diagnosed with breast cancer May 2010 I am 33 and just finished my last round of Chemo last Wed! And yes the losing of the hair was my melting point so Im so glad you are trying the cap!

    • leftbreast says:

      Yvonne, Congrats on finishing chemo. I am rather shocked that it really does get harder with each cycle. I’ve heard that after chemo, hair often grows back better and thicker. I hope that’s true for you.

    • Andrea says:

      HI Ladies. I was sent this link and Heather’s story by a friend who thought we might be able to help. I make Icekaps for headaches and migraines. They may just do the trick for you gals during treatment. I have a website (icekap.ca) and am on facebook too. Lots of testimonials on facebook at ‘icekap headache and migraine system’. I did not intend for my product to be used as a chemo cap but have been selling them as such. Heck, if the shoe fits, wear it. – Andrea

  7. Alice F. Hayden says:

    I am 33 and I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer in May 2010. I had a double mastectomy. I just finished chemo (5 months) 4 weeks ago and had my final stage two reconstruction surgery 2 weeks ago. Although, it is too late for me regarding my hairloss I am so excited this cold cap is working for further cancer patients. Keep strong! I’ll be thinking of you!

  8. kevinsuncommon says:

    Hi Heather…
    My name is Kevin. Searched what was new/ growing on wordpress and saw your blog. Was curious by your title. Just read “about Heather”. I am sad to hear of your illness, however, am encouraged by your reslove to “get more time.” My mother, 71, is a survivor of stage 3 ovarian cancer (1 in 4 don’t live) and is doing strong some 13 almost 14 years later.

    She was given a newer (at the time in 97) chemo treatment drug called “taxall” for lack of spelling it correctly. Anyway, it was brutal for the first year or so (can’t remember the timing) and was hard for us as a family also. Eventually she was cured/healed and all blood levels taken a few times yearly have all been in the “clean” range… again, not sure of what they call that range or test.

    The doctor’s were really good and very knowledgeable in their field. We also knew, as born again followers of God, that He had much to do with her recovery. Our faith in Him was surely raised and continues to grow and often we are able to think back at how instrumental He was in our lives then and since.

    All this to say that I will pray for His love and grace to cover you and your family, to give wisdom to your doctors and for healing and full resolve of this in your life. If it is alright, I would like to continue to pray for your health and that of your family’s as well as you wage this battle. Also, if you would like, I could ask my mother to contact you (no pressure if you don’t want, I would understand) and maybe she, having been through all she did, may have some ideas, thoughts and encouragement for you during all this. Over the years, I’ve run into or had friends of friends who had some type of cancer and a few times, my mom connected with the woman and it was a really cool thing on a support level for them both. I realize you don’t know me or my mom from Eve or Adam for that matter (ha!)… it was just a thought and having gone through it with my family, have a heart and concern for those who go through it in their lives.

    Well, in conclusion that is it. I find no coincidence in “stumbling upon” your blog for I believe God causes all things for a purpose and do my best to do what I believe He would have me do in all circumstances, even this one.

    Well, again, regardless your decision regarding contact with my mother… I pray you all the best for you and your family. BTW… just a bit about me to maybe fill in some questions on your end: I am 47, a father of three, married to a fantastic woman named Sue, I lived a life of alcohol, drugs and ruin for most of my days from 17 to about 35… in may of 1988, my life in utter ruin, I asked Jesus to be Lord and savior and assist my through the rest of my life. The rest is a really story I will spare you at this time. All is pretty wonderful to date… we live in Arkansas for a year now (transplants of California originally and most recently, 7 years in Arizona) … My wife is looking to get back into teaching, currently a C.N.A. at a nursing home and I am a Youth Pastor at a church here and drive a regular school bus route (afternoons only… my fifth year as a driver) and we are living life and raising our 3.5 year old little beauty with red hair to yearn for, Elijah! He is our gift for sure after 3 mis-carriages. Anyway, just a nutshell to hopefull show you I am not a “nut-case”….LOL!

    I would love to hear response from you, but certainly understand if you don’t seeing the weird world we live in with all the crazies out there. Lord bless and I thank you for your time in sharing this with you….

    In His Service….Kevin R. Scholl
    twitter: artist4jesus

    • leftbreast says:

      Kevin, I am glad that your Mom is doing well. The funny thing about cancer is that it’s terrifying, but suddenly you have hundreds of friends who are going through, or have gone through, the same thing. That kind of support is amazing, and helps us all get through.

      Thanks for your prayers! I’m trying to see how many prayer lists I can score (not really, but I’ve got a dear friend who says he’s got the prayer wheels spinning). All the very best to you, Heather.

  9. Pingback: Cold caps may help cancer patients keep their hair | Continue Kim's Fight

  10. Brenda says:

    My sister was diagnoised with breast cancer 12/3/10. she is 42 young married for 20 yrs and has a teenage daughter. she is having a double masectommy 1/7/11. she has long beautiful hair. please advise on the cap to save her hair? i will put you and your family on our prayer list. thanks, brenda

    • leftbreast says:

      Brenda, I am so sorry to hear about your sister. I know it’s really shocking and terrifying in the early weeks. She’ll beat this, and she’ll meet a lot of strong, wonderful women along the way. Where are you? Where is she having her mastectomy? I’d be happy to be in contact with her if that would be helpful. Many people reached out to me early on, and continue to do so. The cap I am using is a clinical trial that’s only be conducted at UC San Francisco and Wake Forest University, so that’s not widely available yet. I would suggest that your sister check out the Penguin Cap. Here’s their website: http://www.msc-worldwide.com/ I believe that the patient has to pay for the cap, but it sounds like it’s worth it to your sister. All the very best, and thanks for your prayers. I’ll take all that I get!

      • Brenda Roznowski says:

        thank you for replying so prmptly. i live in dallas and my sister lives in highland ranch colorado. my parents and i and 3 of my sisters are flying out 1/6 for her surgery. i’ll keep you posted.

        happy holidays!

      • leftbreast says:

        Please do. Is Highland Ranch a suburb of Colorado? Hope she’s got top notch docs…
        Happy Holidays to you,

  11. joann says:

    im two year surviber.rihgt side 7week chemo 37 weeks radaions

  12. Lariston Antoine says:

    Hi Heather. Am all the way from ST.Vincent in the Caribbean. Possibly you never heard about that little Island Nation. However, your story is one of courage and it inspires me. The message is clear i.e we must keep fighting no matter the circumstance. I wish you well even though I am a total stranger from another country. May the good Lord grant your desire for success in this fight.

  13. Bonnie J. Perkins says:


    My heart goes out to you because I understand, having been on this journey. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my left breast and lymph nodes this summer. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery also. Just a few weeks ago was my last chemotherapy treatment after 4 long, hard months! I am so grateful to be done!! I also wore a cold cap during chemo and am able to say I have hair! I feel incredibly blessed to have made a connection with a sharp lady that told me about the cold caps. I am thrilled about the advances that are currently undergoing development of cold caps right now! My dream is for noone to have to lose their hair if they don’t want to (and I certainly did not want to lose my hair.)
    My best to you! I will pray for you as so many people have prayed for me!! Any bit of encouragement I can give you I will!
    Most kindly-

  14. Pingback: Heather millar | Eventplannerwo

  15. Jonas says:

    Hi Heather,
    I wish you all the best. Is the Cold Cap working for you and the other participants in the study? When do you think it will be available on the market?

    • leftbreast says:

      I finished the cold cap, and chemo on 2/10/11. It worked, though I did lose some hair. I believe the group is moving on to a Phase II clinical trial, which will involve about 100 women. After that, there will need to be a Phase III trial, so it will be a while before it’s on the market. In the meantime, women can use the Penguin Cap, which isn’t as high-tech, but is also successful.

  16. Hello Millar
    I edit a small local magazine in Wales, and my friend has just gone through breast cancer treatment, with the cold cap. She is really pleased that she did it as she kept her hair, which made an enormous difference to her morale. I tried to share this experience with another friend who was starting treatment just before Christmas, and I heard that the consultant had been very negative about it and was advised she may not cope with it. They appear to discourage, rather than encourage its use. They painted such a black picture that she agreed to just have a wig. I am desperately disappointed for my friend, as her appearance is important to her, and no matter how good wigs can be, they are not the same as your own hair, an everyone can tell that it is a wig, so you are immediately labelled as a cancer sufferer, which is not what most people want.
    I asked my friend to write an article about the Cold Cap, for my magazine, as if more women were aware of the facility, and that it IS endurable, they may find that they retain considerably more of their self esteem. I would like to include a photo of the cap being worn, and wonder if you would mind if I could use the image of you. If so please send a high res jpeg image to debbieashton@uwclub.net. I can also direct people to your blog. If you have anything else you would like to say, to be included in the article, please do comment. If you can help me with this, I will send you a copy of the magazine.
    I thank you for reading this, and wish you well with your recovery.

  17. Robert Michael Bell says:

    Heather, im glad your doing well…by the way, this is Robert

  18. Maryann Kirchner says:

    I am using the cold caps, I’m going to number 6 of taxol tomorrow of my weekly sessions, 12 total, so I’m almost half way there! I have lost zero hair best I can tell! Cold caps are not as bad as I thought, you sort of get numb and then another day is over! I know the cold cap people want 4 full hours of hair freezing after the chemo drug is all in but others have said they stopped at 2 or 3 after, and the new DigniCap is I think? is 2 hours only after chemo drug is in. I’ve done 50 min before infusion, during the one hour, and 4 hours after. Thoughts? Good luck to you and all your bloggers. Maryann

    • leftbreast says:

      Maryann, I used the Dignicap for a half hour pre-infusion, and an hour post. It’s different with with Penguin Caps, not sure why, perhaps not as high-tech as Dignicap.

  19. Hello Heather,

    How are you?

    I wonder how your experiences of using the Dignicap are? Do you think it will be approved in USA?

    This blog was really interesting to read and I believe it helps many readers to see that life is not over when you face sad and bad news.

    Keep up the good work!

    Dali West

  20. Doug Millar says:

    Seems we share more than a name. I’m a three-time survivor who last treated at UCSF. Living in East Bay. Enjoyed your “How to tell….” article on WebMD.

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