Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AH-mazing inspiration and a new awareness......

I am so excited to share this post with you today.  I shared with you a few months ago about my amazing Mom who passed away from colon cancer 3 years ago, and my Super Hero craftivity found in my TPT store  in which all proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.  When I posted about this, many of you reached out with stories of loved ones, coworkers, spouses, and friends that have been touched by cancer.  So when Heather reached out to me to ask if she could share her story of survival, I just had to say "yes".  Heather Von St. James is a 6 year survivor of mesothelioma cancer.  Heather's hope is to raise awareness of this rare form of cancer.  Please take some time to read her story below.  You will want to hold your children just a bit longer  and hug them tighter after reading this story. Heather is truly a courageous woman with such an inspirational story.
Mesothelioma Cancer, My story as told by Heather Von St. James

I was so excited that I was soon expecting my first child. After an uneventful pregnancy, my daughter was born on August 4, 2005 through an emergency C-section. Many have heard the saying “it takes a village,” a community of family and friends for the best and worst of times. Our “village” surrounded my husband and me in order to meet and welcome our new daughter, Lily, into this world. With such a joyous event, how could we ever be ready for the storm to come?

Although I was feeling fatigued and continually out of breath, I did return to work when Lily was only a month old. I thought these feelings were due to having a new baby, however, I decided to call my doctor for answers to what I was really experiencing. After a multitude of tests, I was told the results on November 21, 2005 when Lily was only 3-1/2 months old. The devastating news was that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer in the lining of the lungs predominantly caused by exposure to asbestos. I was exposed to the substance when I was a child over 30 years ago.  All along, I felt my lethargy was due to effects of a new baby - never dreamed I would experience symptoms of a cancer that compromised my life from something that happened when I was a child.

The mesothelioma prognosis is grim and I was given 15 months to live without seeking any treatment. My husband and I were given the option to fly to Boston and seek the help of one of the best doctors in the nation to fight this demon and save my life.  All I could think of was my daughter and my husband and I knew I had to do this for them. When we got to Boston, I underwent a surgery on February 2 known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy- a surgery to remove my left lung. I remained in the hospital to recover for 18 days and after two months, I started my chemotherapy and radiation. This was such an enduring fight as the mom of a new baby.

During the stay at the hospital in Boston, we surrounded ourselves by new friends who kept us going day-to-day.  These wonderful people were struggling much the same as us and were so amazing as we all offered each other love and support. We were so grateful for our "village" here. Many other unexpected friends were there for us as well although those we expected were not.  Funny how cancer lets you know who your friends really are in the toughest of times.

My parents also had their own village since Lily had to live with them through my treatment and recovery. They went from being grandparents to raising a child again, even though they also worked full-time. Their village consisted of girls I used to babysit years ago- they were all grown with children of their own and offered to care for Lily in my parent’s absence. Others from church helped my parents with love and support as well.

My parents live in South Dakota- my childhood home. They got to experience some of the first memories of Lily like eating food, scooting on the floor, and rolling over- many things a new mom wants to experience. I got to see theses milestones through grainy black and white photos. The nurses at the hospital would come by and look at them with joy while holding back the tears. I knew my baby was in the best of hands and my parents and Lily created a strong bond that lasts today, even with so many miles between us.

We now all realize how precious life can be and we embrace it fully. One of my favorite quotes is “Life is a banquet and the most poor suckers are starving to death.” Our journey in life is not always an easy one, but we must do the best we can. Cherish your life and all it gives you. Cancer can bring with it a lot of good and bad. Now that I have survived it, I am thankful for all the good that came to us.

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.

Thanks Heather for sharing your story! 

1 comment:

kaney said...

Anybody that has ever had a friend, family member, or a loved one come down with any type of cancer knows fully well that it is a horrifying experience. Even if they were thankfully and fortunately eventually cured, it still does not diminish the effect that it had on everybody that was involved in the event.

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