CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Having cancer is hard enough, but when you find out it’s attacked multiple places in your body, how do you react?

A North Carolina woman still finds a reason to smile, despite a late diagnosis of stage 4 cancer and aggressive measures to treat it. 

What You Need To Know

  • Heather Gensler is getting laser brain therapy at Duke University Hospital in addition to chemotherapy for cancer

  • Gensler was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that began with a lump in her breast at age 29

  • Cancer has spread throughout her body, but despite the diagnosis, she's pushing others to stay positive and to live life to the fullest

For some, a morning routine might include a cup of coffee. For Heather Gensler, it’s a series of pills and water to wash it down.

"This is hydrocortisone because your body's supposed to naturally give off cortisol and mine doesn't, so I have to replace it, basically," Gensler said.

These pills along with others are part of the “her 2 climb” treatment plan. However, when she's not focusing on her medication regime she's focusing on her creative side.

"It just takes your mind off of things and it just, you get to go in this world of — it's just a totally different world from what you're used to and you don't have to pay attention to pill bottles and this and that," Gensler said.

Gensler noticed a lump at 29, and she was told by doctor after doctor that it was not cancerous.

Finally, a doctor took a closer look and gave her the news no one wants to hear.

"If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know that I’d be alive to be honest, because it was already stage 4 by the time they caught it," Gensler said.

Cancer has spread throughout her body, including her shoulder, spine, neck, hip and brain.

Gensler is undergoing chemotherapy and getting treatment at Duke University Hospital called “LITT,” or laser therapy, on the brain.

Despite the sadness that comes with each visit, she tries to make it more fun by adding decorations to her radiation masks.

Whether it’s a pair of earrings or lashes, it makes chemo feel less sterile, and as she shares her story, she hopes it inspires others to push past the diagnosis and live life to the fullest.

"If it's going to take me, it's going to take me," she said, "But I'm not going to let it run my whole life because I feel like people naturally, when you hear cancer, you you think, 'Oh, that's terrible and that's a horrible life to live,' but that's not always the case."

"You make it what you want it to be, and I feel like people don't get to see enough normal, well, living life, doing everything that everybody else does kind of thing. I feel like everybody always sees the bad and no one sees the good," Gensler said.