Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guest Post: Heather Von St. James

Last week I was contacted by Heather who has a blog herself about her story. She had asked if I would be interested in her writing a guest post on my blog in order to share her story. I read through her blog about her dealing with Mesothelioma as a Mom and agreed wholeheartedly to include a post made by her. I encourage anyone viewing to read her story below as well as visit her blog to raise  awareness.

A link to her blog: Heather Von St. James - Courageous Mother, Wife and Survivor of Mesothelioma

Dealing with Mesothelioma as a Mom

When I was just 36 years old, my life took a very different and unexpected toll. My husband and I had recently welcomed our newborn daughter, Lily, into the world. Lily blessed us with her presence on August 4th, 2005. During those first moments of her life, we could feel the love in the room, as both my parents and my husband’s parents came to visit us after the birth of our little girl. It was times like these when I felt nothing could bring us down. However, it seems as though this was just the calm before the storm.

After giving birth to Lily, I ended up heading back to work, but that is when I started noticing a few things that were going on. I constantly felt tired and I never felt like I had any energy. These are things that people often associate with being a new mom anyway, so I actually didn’t think too much of it at first. I also realized I was losing a significant amount of weight, totaling nearly 7 pounds per week. I finally decided to take a trip to my doctor’s office, and found out things were much worse than I ever could have imagined.

It was November 21, 2005 and our daughter, Lily, was 3 ½ months, when I received the diagnosis from the doctor. My doctor informed me that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer. Even worse, he told me that if I were to not get treatment, I would only have about 15 months to live. I ended up with this cancer because when I was a child, I had been exposed to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma in the future. Upon receiving the diagnosis, all I could do was think of Lily and how I needed to survive for her, and for my husband. It was then that I made the decision to go along with whatever treatment was going to keep me alive.

The procedure that I needed to receive was quite drastic to say the least. I had to fly down to Boston to meet with a doctor who specializes in treating mesothelioma. During the surgery, my entire left lung had to be removed. It took me slightly over two weeks to recover just from the surgery. I had to continue to recover to prepare for both chemo and radiation. I was trying to do all of this and still be a mom to my daughter. During my time in Boston, my parents took care of the responsibility of Lily. They were doing what they could to raise her, and were also receiving support from people in the neighborhood. It was the support of our family and kind people that kept me going.

As my daughter was living with my parents, she started to reach all of her milestones, many of which I missed. However, my parents were kind enough to snap pictures, and my husband would always show them to me. When I saw the pictures, I was really happy and I kept telling myself that Lily is reason that I am trying my best to beat this cancer. It’s been almost 7 years now and there is no sign of my cancer. I travel to Boston for scans every 6 months. It’s a lot to anxiety and sometimes anger to deal with, but it has changed my outlook on life for the better.
My husband and I, along with Lily and my parents, are constantly taking things one step at a time. We have accepted the obstacles thrown in our way and the challenges that life has put in our path, but have also realized that good things can come out of negative things. With that said, I will always be thankful for the supportive people we have had stand by us throughout this entire ordeal.

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