No matter who you are, there was at least one time in your life when you depended on someone else. Part of growing up means going through hard times. Your friends and loved ones should be there to help you get through those difficult days. I've been through those hard times as well. I was 36-years-old when it all began.
I had just given birth to our beautiful baby, Lily, on August 4th, 2005 -- three and ½ months prior to finding out.
When I returned to work, things were normal at first. But then, I started noticing that I was losing a lot of weight. I also had little to no energy. I thought it was just because I was a new mom, but my friends told me I should get checked out in case.
On November 21, 2005, my doctor told me that I had mesothelioma , a cancer that attacks the pleural lining of the lungs. It comes from asbestos exposure, which had happened to me unknowingly as a child.
The mesothelioma prognosis is grim. My doctor told me that I only had 15 months to live if I didn't do something soon. As any mother would, the first thing I thought about was Lily and my husband. I didn't want to leave them so soon. My life felt like it was just starting before I found out I had mesothelioma cancer. The prognosis is so grim, I didn’t have much hope to hold on to, but this is where my loved ones took over and stepped in.
I had to choose the most extreme option to help my chances, so we flew out to Boston. On February 2nd, 2006, I underwent surgery to remove my left lung. I had to spend 18 days recovering in the hospital and then another two months of recovery before I could start chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
When we flew out to Boston, my mother flew back with Lily to my childhood home in South Dakota. My parents had little time enjoying being grandparents. All of a sudden, they were full time ‘parents’ again. The town came together to help support my parents. Kids that I used to babysit who were all grown up with families of their own were babysitting Lily while my parents worked.
During my time in Boston, I also made friends, people who were going through the exact same thing as me. We bonded, shared our fears, shared our hopes, and shared our stories. We helped each other get through this.
Unfortunately, I missed out on so much of Lily's childhood. During her time with my parents, she changed so much. She was scooting around, eating real foods, all firsts that a new mother never wants to miss. I had to watch her grow up thousands of miles away, through grainy black and white scanned pictures.
The nurses would always love it when I got updates about Lily, they would ask me what's new with her. I'd laugh, as I would tell them, all the while trying not to cry. The visits with her grandparents are sometimes far and few between now, but I'm so thankful for the bond they share with Lily and love and support we all have for each other.
We've learned to appreciate life, no matter how terrible it can be at times. We have to learn to live with hope and happiness. Cancer is a terrible thing, but I have learned to see the good amidst all that I went through. We are a different family now, and we don’t take a single day for granted.
*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
Heather is cancer free now---she goes to Boston every 6 months for new scans to make sure that she is still cancer free! Her last scan was in October. When we asked how she feels about the future, she told us "I've been told my whole life that I wear 'rose colored glasses' and I have no intention of ever taking them off! We take each day as it comes and always look at life optimistically as a family. We are really big on HOPE, and we live our lives that way!" If you'd like to keep up with Heahter and find out how she's doing now, visit her blog at www.mesothelioma.com/blog/
In Health,Tamar and The Ladies