Living Life With Mesothelioma

People often use the phrase '”it takes a village to raise a child.” I didn't really put much weight to it until my little girl Lily was born. She came into the world on August 4, 2005 after a fairly simple pregnancy. The only real “complication'” we had, was needing to have an emergency C-section during delivery. Otherwise, I was ecstatic. I had a beautiful baby girl, a loving family around me, and no idea what was sitting on the horizon.
I went back to work a few weeks later. Within a month after returning to work, I started to feel run down and tired. Of course, everyone told me that this was just part of being a new parent. But something about it felt off. I was short of breath all the time and had no energy. So finally, I went to the doctor. They ran so many tests and finally we had an answer for symptoms.
November 21, 2005 was the day that changed my life. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This cancer of the lung lining is most often caused by asbestos exposure. Unknowingly subjected to it as a child, I was now diagnosed with cancer thirty years later.
I was terrified. My diagnosis was grim and the doctors told me that I had fifteen months to live, if I did nothing. All I could think of was my family, my little baby girl, and my husband living their lives without me. When my options were presented, we chose the most drastic option. We flew to Boston and on February 2nd, I had a procedure called an extrapleural pneumenectomy. They removed my left lung. I spent eighteen days in the hospital, two months in recovery, and then began chemotherapy. All of this was happening with my newborn baby girl back at home.
I could not have done it without my family, my village. My parents did their best to raise my daughter as I struggled through treatment for mesothelioma. I had to see her milestones through grainy pictures my mother emailed from hundreds of miles away. Every day was a struggle. But my Lily was seeing the best of the world. My parents had friends from church and I had old friends and acquaintances who offered to look after Lily while my parents both worked full time.
This diagnosis had not been easy. Some days are more of a struggle than others. However having cancer taught me that life is precious, no matter if it is a good day, or a bad. I know, from having to look my own mortality in the eyes, that I would much rather have a bad day with my family, than the alternative.
Take it from someone who knows first hand. Life is a blessing. Cherish it; cherish the people who are around you. Appreciate and enjoy your village because life is a gift. 
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.

1 comment:

Chase said...

I am praying for your recovery! I had friends suffering from mesothelioma after some serious exposure to asbestos at their workplace. They hired a Mesothelioma lawyer to fight for their compensation. I'm just happy they won the case but that doesn't meant their fight is over.