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.
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.