Justus Heise is 8 years old. For his first three years, he lacked a family to love him and provide for his basic needs. Happily, at the age of 3 he became the foster child of Natalie and Dave Heise of Hokah, Minn. Two years later, they adopted him.
But the emotional scars of those early years run deep leaving Justus with trust issues and debilitating anxiety. That wasn’t the only hurdle Justus had to face. “Just a few months after his adoption, we heard the worst thing a parent can hear,” recall the Heises, “Justus was diagnosed with cancer.”
“When we adopted Justus, we made a commitment to him that we would be his forever family. Cancer is a family disease and we promised him that he would never be alone.” Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has also been there for Justus and his family so they never feel alone.
Soon after his diagnosis, Justus had surgery at Gundersen Health System to remove a kidney and biopsy several areas around the tumors. “Justus stayed in the hospital for six days. Whatever we needed, Gundersen staff, child life specialists or CMN Hospitals got it for us,” recalls Natalie. “All of our meals were taken care of during our hospital stays and daylong doctor visits. We also received transportation money for our many—sometimes daily—trips to Gundersen.”
For the next six months, Justus received radiation treatment and chemotherapy. By June of 2015, there were no signs of cancer. “Justus was very excited to be done with cancer and to get his life back. He was feeling well and happy,” recalls Natalie. But less than a year later, cancer had resurfaced. This meant a second surgery, more chemo, more radiation, and more support from CMN Hospitals.
For now, Justus will continue to be a fighter. He loves spending time with family and going to school. When he’s at the hospital he enjoys visiting his friends in the security office, and even aspires to be a police officer one day.
“We are so thankful he is ours,” say the Heises, “he has taught us so much about what is important in life. His battle is not over but because of him we will continue to fight fiercely.”