Hedi Rhea started A Rhea of Hope LA to raise awareness and funds about Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as Bile Duct Cancer. This cancer is rare, aggressive, and oftentimes fatal. Rhea shares, “in the first year, 50% of those diagnosed will die, many within months, weeks, or even days of being diagnosed, often because they are misdiagnosed for up to two years. Only 5-20 percent live over five years.”
These facts alarmed her as she herself was diagnosed with this cancer in June of 2011. Having survived this long to a cancer that usually takes lives so fast, Rhea expresses, “as a survivor it was tough to understand why I was still alive and doing so well at age 64 while so many young ones were dying. I realized that God had a plan for me, and knew that I was strong, a hard worker, and that I needed to do what I can to raise awareness and funds to help others because I was well enough to do it. I talked to another long-term survivor who had a fundraiser for Cholangiocarcinoma, and I decided that I, too, can do it.”
In 2018, she attended her first Cholangiocarcinoma conference in Salt Lake City where she saw so many young people battling a cancer that is supposed to be more commonly found in people 65 and up. From there, A Rhea of Hope LA was born, and her journey to raise awareness and funds to help combat this cancer began.
Since officially becoming a nonprofit 501(c)3 in February of 2020, a Rhea of Hope LA has given others dealing with Bile Duct Cancer a helping hand in their fight. When it came to her own battle, Rhea emphasizes, “it made a huge difference to me to be with people whom I could relate to but wished I had years before to help me through my cancer journey.” She also understands how organizations like The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation can be a resource, by herself being so involved as a volunteer, mentor, letter writer, fundraiser, etc. for years, and can help educate people on how to utilize all the resources that are available to them. In addition to this, Rhea explains, “I am also able to help local patients financially with some expenses such as out-of-town cancer treatment or with replenishing their refrigerator/freezer when a storm knocks out power for days, etc. because insurance does not pay for everything.”
All in all, the main service that A Rhea of Hope LA offers is hope. Rhea states, “As an eleven-year survivor, I can give them hope that they, too, can survive, and that with new drugs, treatments, genetic testing, and more that are now available, things are looking brighter for their future.”
Nothing defeats a person faster than the feeling that they have to go through something extremely difficult alone. A Rhea of Hope LA makes it their mission to make sure you don’t have to do that. Recently, Rhea traveled to Lafayette to meet up with someone battling this cancer who thought she was the only one in Louisiana.
Rhea has raised over $40,000 for this cause, and she is very proud of that. Everyday she is able to bring awareness to something that a lot of people have never heard of, yet it impacts people’s lives in such a drastic way. The community has a role to play in this too by helping A Rhea of Hope LA whether that be an invitation to speak to your club or organization, volunteering to be on a committee to help plan fundraisers, volunteering to work at events, being a sponsor for the fundraisers, attending a fundraising event, and giving monetary donations to the organization. However you choose to give back, know that your efforts are going towards a great cause. To get more information, visit their website at arheaofhopela.org.