Mesothelioma – A Guest Blog
Heather Von St James is sharing her journey with cancer today. She found out she had Mesothelioma soon after giving birth to her daughter. For those who know me, you know I have a great fear of cancer, after my Mom died from melanoma (skin cancer). So when Heather wrote and asked if she could share with my readers, her story… I was more than happy to have her share her story.
Mesothelioma – The Importance of Support During Cancer
by Heather Von St James
August 4, 2005 was one of the happiest days of my life. That was the date that my husband and I welcomed our little bundle of joy, Lily, into the world. My pregnancy was smooth, and I was amazed by how much love I felt for my little girl as soon as she was born. My husband and I were not the only ones who immediately fell in love with Lily. Our family members and friends rejoiced with us, and they were there to support us through the exhaustion of caring for a newborn.
I never would have guessed how much I would need to rely on the kindness of others later in that year. I returned to work when Lily was about a month old and I began to realize that I was not feeling right. I could not shake the feeling of extreme fatigue and exhaustion, and I became short of breath while performing normal tasks. When the sickness did not go away, I decided to visit my doctor. He ordered numerous tests to try to determine what was wrong.
On November 21, 2005, my world was turned upside down. On that day, my doctor informed me that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. I did not really know anything about this disease, but it is a form of cancer normally caused by asbestos exposure. I found out that I had come into contact with asbestos when I was young, and this exposure had now come back to drastically affect my life.
When I heard the word “cancer,” all I could think about was my baby girl. She was only three and a half months old, and the doctor told me I had a life expectancy of only 15 more months without treatment. I gritted my teeth and determined to fight this cancer with everything that I had.
My husband and I decided that I should seek treatment with a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. During this time, my parents took Lily to live with them in South Dakota. Being across the country from my growing daughter is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to endure. I was forced to watch her grow through pictures instead of experiencing her milestones for myself.
On February 2, 2006, my doctor performed anextrapleural pneumonectomy. The surgery removed my entire left lung and all of the surrounding tissue, and the recovery was painful. After over two months of recovery, I also underwent radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
There were times when I was not sure if I would make it, but I am proud to say that I am now free from cancer. I cannot take all the credit for this victory because I had help from countless people along the way.
During my cancer journey, I found out that I had a wonderful support system in my life. It is comforting to know that there are people who will do anything to help you when you cannot help yourself. Now that I am on the other side of cancer, I am determined to do what I can to provide support to other mesothelioma sufferers.
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 more of her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog