Heather, contacted me with an amazing and inspiring story of her journey while battling cancer and being a mom. I know she is a strong women and and even better mother. My prayers go out to you Heather to stay healthy!
After an uneventful pregnancy and a C-section delivery, my only child, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005. My husband and I had both heard “it takes a village to raise a child” and to our delight, our village of friends and family happily welcomed our new baby into the world. During these happy moments, we could not have imagined the strain that would be placed upon our village in the next several months.
Shortly after my return to full-time work, my health appeared to decline. Although my symptoms of weariness and breathlessness may easily have been attributed to the stress of adjusting to motherhood, instinct urged me to see my doctor. After a large number of tests, the doctor confirmed my fears. I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer.
The malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of my lung, appeared to have been caused by my exposure to asbestos some 30 years prior. Now, less than 4 months following the birth of my daughter, I was in a fight for my life.
The prognosis for mesothelioma cancer is grim. According to doctors, if I chose not to seek treatment, I had about 15 months to live. My husband would be left to raise Lily alone. Neither of us wanted this to happen, so we chose the most aggressive treatment available.
That winter, my husband and I left Lily with my parents in South Dakota and flew to Boston where I could be treated by one of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors. On February 2, 2006, my left lung was removed during surgery in a procedure known as an extrapleural pneumenectomy. For the next 18 days I recovered in the hospital under careful observation of kind hospital staff.
In South Dakota, Lily was learning to eat solid food, roll around, and scoot to get where she wanted to go. My mom sent regular emails with pictures that my husband printed out on a community printer and brought to my room. When the grainy black-and-white photos arrived, my nurses surrounded me to ooh and ah over Lily, while we all choked back tears.
Finally, I was able to leave Boston. I spent another two months recovering before beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatments. As I grew stronger, I was able to once again care for Lily. Our village, in South Dakota and in Boston, had helped us through the most difficult time of our lives.
Today, my husband, Lily, and I are careful to remember life’s blessings. We know how fragile life is and how important it is to make the most of every day we are given. My favorite quote comes from Auntie Mame in the 1958 film. “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” I hope more people will come to understand, through my story, how precious every moment of this glorious banquet is.
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 her blog