Written by Heather Von St.James
In August of 2005, I gave birth to my reason for living. Many people say this, but unbeknownst to me it would shortly hit a little closer to home. At the time, I was simply grateful for an uncomplicated pregnancy and mesmerized by the beautiful little person my husband and I had brought into this world. As fate would have it, our happiness was soon to be shattered by a devastating event. It would forever alter the course of our lives.
About a month and a half following the birth of Lily, I started feeling tired, lethargic, and breathless. At first, I thought I was experiencing the fatigue that frequently accompanies being a new mom and working to boot. Then I started to lose weight- anywhere from five to seven pounds weekly. By November, I knew that something was wrong and I went to see my doctor.
I underwent a battery of medical tests. On November 21, just three and a half months after Lilly was born, I had my diagnosis. Malignant Plural Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, had invaded the lining of my lung. Without treatment, I was given 15 months to live.
Even with treatment, the outlook was bad. My first thoughts were about my daughter growing up without her mother. My husband and I chose the most aggressive treatment option that was offered. On February 2, I underwent a dramatic surgery.
My left lung, surrounding tissues, lymph nodes, and the left side of my diaphragm, one rib, and the lining around my heart were removed. My chest cavity was washed with chemotherapeutic drugs to kill any cancer cells that were missed. After an 18-day hospitalization, I had two months to recover before the second plan of attack was put into motion. I then underwent chemotherapy, followed closely by radiation treatments.
There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. A multitude of family and friends pulled together to help us care for Lily during this tragic time. Another adage says every cloud has a silver lining. For me, this is especially true.
Our lives have changed. Today, I am cancer-free and a stay at home mom. My husband and I fully embrace the idea that our faith and hope allowed us to do much more than merely survive. We have learned to live fully and be mindful of each moment that we have together.
Heather Von St James is a mesothelioma survivor and a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to anyone who may be going through similar situations to her own.
Check out Heather’s story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.