Friends, I’m so excited to host a very inspiring guest post from a strong woman and mother. Please give a warm southern welcome to Heather.
I wasn’t prepared for the storm. When my daughter was born on August 4, 2005, my life appeared to be perfect. How could I think otherwise? I had my parents, in-laws, and friends all around me to help greet my little one’s entrance into the world.
Storms are like that sometimes. They begin with just a few dark clouds, but instead of breaking up, they continue to grow. That’s how my life was. I went back to work, but I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted and having trouble breathing, so I went to see my doctor. After a series of tests, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer on November 21, 2005. It was only 3-1/2 months since Lily came into our lives. The type of cancer I had was pleural mesothelioma. It is caused by asbestos exposure and affects the lining of the lungs. Apparently, I had been exposed about 30 years earlier as a child.
The doctor gave me about 15 months to live, but I couldn’t do that to my husband and child. I had to help myself for them. In early February we left Lily with my parents in South Dakota and flew to Boston where I underwent surgery to remove my left lung. I spent 18 days in the hospital and another two months in recovery before I began chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
One of the realities about being so ill is that it shows you who your friends are. Many people I thought would be there took off and others whom I didn’t expect to see gave us their full support. Kids I babysat as a teenager returned the favor and watched Lily while my parents worked. People I went to church with surrounded my parents and gave them the love and support they needed. In Boston, I made new friends with people who were going through the same thing I was.
One of the most difficult things for me was watching my baby grow from a distance. My mother emailed me photographs and my husband printed them off, but it was hard not to cry. I wasn’t there to deal with the bottles or to see Lily scoot. Yet, I knew I was fighting this fight for her. Cancer can be funny that way. It’s a storm that no one ever expects, but there are many good and loving things that come along with the bad. My daughter, my husband, my new friends, and my parents are a few of the things I’m most grateful for.
Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.