Students have created a GoFundMe for an English lecturer diagnosed with an aggressive stage 2B, triple negative breast cancer.
Heather Dorn, Ph.D. ‘16, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2023. Dorn’s treatment has been complicated by a BRCA1 gene mutation and cardiomyopathy, a heart condition. She will have to undergo chemotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery as part of her treatment plan.
Wanting to ease this financial burden, some of Dorn’s students set up a GoFundMe to contribute toward her medical expenses. The campaign, titled, “Help Heather Beat Breast Cancer,” was posted on April 19 and has currently raised $3,704 in donations out of the $10,000 goal.
Ennie Li, a patient care technician on the oncology floor at Lourdes Hospital and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, set up the online fundraiser. Li explained her motivations for starting the campaign.
“I’ve seen many patients with cancer struggle on a daily basis with their [chemotherapy] treatments,” Li wrote in an email. “It’s heartbreaking to see them go through it so when I heard about [Dorn], I knew that I had to help her [somehow]. This GoFundMe was started to alleviate her stress, so that she could focus on improving her health.”
In addition to being an English lecturer, Dorn is currently the editor-in-chief of Binghamton Writes — a collection of first-year writing that publishes the best essays WRIT 111 students produce each semester.
Dorn is continuing to teach while undergoing treatment. Li is currently enrolled in her course, WRIT 222: Advanced Argumentative Writing, and highlighted Dorn’s dedication to her students.
“[Dorn’s] care for [her students] while being sick has made a great impact on me,” Li wrote. “Instead of resting the day before her first [chemotherapy] treatment, she made sure that we were comfortable with the sudden changes. Instead of emphasizing her health, [Dorn] emphasized the importance of our education. Even before she was diagnosed, we could all tell how devoted of a professor she is.”
On top of these responsibilities and being a mother of three, Dorn has used her time to give back to the local community. According to BU’s Writing Initiative, she introduced poetry workshops, readings and publications to Binghamton during her time as director of the Binghamton Poetry Project and brought established authors to Binghamton for free readings as the director of the Literati Reading Series.
Dorn expressed appreciation for the support she has received from her students, and plans to continue teaching next spring.
“Many students have shared their own stories of how cancer has affected their lives,” Dorn wrote in an email. “One of the best things about teaching is the personal connections made. I’m looking forward to recovering, coming back next spring and being in the classroom again.”
Michael Scorcia, a student in Dorn’s Advanced Argumentative Writing course and a sophomore majoring in economics, is currently working on informing others about the fundraiser by reaching out to the Student Association (SA) and media outlets.
“Despite the workload, she has made the course one of my favorites and least stressful — one I look forward to where I can hone my passion for writing,” Scorcia wrote in an email. “Overall, she is a wonderful professor who has given so much of her time and attention to her students, and I hope she receives as much support and well wishes as possible.”