Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Post: Winning Against Mesothelioma

Winning Against Mesothelioma

It is the most joyful time of any woman’s life: expecting the birth of a child. I had a normal pregnancy and treasured every movement of my baby. My daughter, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005 and she was exquisitely perfect with her ten miniature fingers and toes. My family and friends were an amazing support group and life seemed perfect with the introduction of Lily into the world.

About a month after Lily was born, I reluctantly returned to work. It was difficult; I felt so tired and just not like my old self. I wrote it off initially as missing my baby and being physically drained, but when it didn’t get better, I finally decided to see a doctor.

After many tests I was diagnosed with something much worse than fatigue. On November 21, 2005, I was told I had a form of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. This resulted from exposure to asbestos from when I was just a child.

My prognosis wasn’t good. Without aggressive treatment, my doctor told me I only had about 15 months left to live. With a new baby and my husband depending on me, I was horrified. I was determined to face the enemy and come out the winner, so I sought out immediate treatment.

My family was an amazing support. They offered to take care of Lily while I went to seek treatment from one of the best doctors available in Boston. On February 2, 2006, I underwent an extrapleural pneumenectomy, a procedure where the affected lung and the surrounding tissues are removed. I spent 2 ½ months recovering in the hospital and then underwent chemotherapy to keep the cancer from returning.

The support I received was astonishing. Other families we met in Boston battling cancer helped me cope and they were essential to the healing process. My family also received help from family friends and neighbors who helped them tend to baby Lily while I was away.  While it broke my heart to miss Lily’s milestones, my parents sent me photos and updates which kept me motivated to win the battle versus cancer.

Cancer is an awful illness, but I was determined to succeed for my baby, and I am so thankful for the support my family and friends gave me.

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.

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