Monday, May 21, 2012

A Mother and Her Support System.

This is a Guest Post by Heather Von St James. Heather is a mesothelioma survivor, she's raising awareness for mesothelioma by sharing her inspirational story.

It takes a village to raise a child. I found how true that was when my only child, Lily, was born by C-section on August 4, 2005. She and I made it through delivery with flying colors, and a host of family and friends gathered around us with well wishes and congratulations. My husband and I could never have imagined the trials awaiting us in the coming year.

Shortly after I returned to work full time, I began feeling low on energy, breathless and exhausted. While most of these symptoms might be chalked up to the stress of being a new mother, something seemed wrong, so I made a visit to my doctor. Tests were run, and on November 21, I received the diagnosis: malignant pleural mesothelioma.

This cancer in the lining of my left lung mostly likely resulted from asbestos exposure in my youth. Now, 30 years later, I face a fight for my life through the trials of aggressive treatment for mesothelioma. Since the prognosis for mesothelioma patients is grim, my husband and I chose to fight as hard as possible against the disease.

That winter we left Lily with my parents in South Dakota and traveled to Boston. There I underwent treatment from one of the finest mesothelioma physicians in the world. On February 2, 2006, my left lung was removed, along with the lining and the cancerous tumor. For the next 18 days, I recovered in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Lily was growing and developing, hundreds of miles away. My mom sent regular emails with pictures of her eating her first baby food, scooting around and other cute things. My husband would print these photos on a community printer and bring them to my room. There my nurses would surround me and ooh and ah over Lily’s developmental progress. They were a part of my village in Boston.

In South Dakota, a village surrounded Lily to help her grow into a healthy toddler. Girls I had cared for when they were young took turns watching Lily while my parents worked. People from the church where I had grown up stepped in to help as well.

When my husband and I returned to Boston, I recovered at home for two months before beginning chemotherapy and then radiation treatments. As I grew stronger, I was able once again to care for Lily.

Our family has learned to truly appreciate life and all it has to offer. My favorite quote comes from the 1958 movie Auntie Mame “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Despite the difficulties that came with my battle with cancer, I am thankful for the valuable lessons cancer has taught me.

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.

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