Friday, July 06, 2012

You've heard of it, but do you KNOW what Mesothelioma is?

Recently I was contacted by a fabulous, brave woman that is fighting Mesothelioma.
She asked if she could write a guest post on my blog, to which I immediately responded, "Yes!!!!".
We've all seen the commercials, we've all "heard" the word Mesothelioma...but how many of us know anything about it? When Heather contacted me, I was ashamed to admit that I didn't really know anything about it. I didn't know anyone fighting the battle with Mesothelioma, and frankly...there just aren't many people talking about it. That needs to change.

Heather wants to raise awareness. She wants to let you know her battle. I want to help her, even if it's just a little post on my blog. We need to know more about Mesothelioma. We need to be aware. We need to support.

Here is her Facebook page-  Heather Von St James

Here's Heather and her beautiful family-----

Here's her story--

Taking the Good with the Bad while Fighting Cancer

On August 4th, 2005, my daughter was born. It had been an almost uneventful pregnancy. There were no complications, until the delivery when an emergency C-section was performed. My parents, my husband’s family and many friends immediately surrounded us; they formed our village. People like to throw the saying, "it takes a village" around a lot when it comes to a new baby and I began to understand why. At this moment, though, things were great. Little did we know that a storm was brewing.

I returned to work full-time, but within a month, I knew that something was wrong. I had no energy, and I was tired and breathless. While all of these symptoms could be attributed to being a new mom, I visited the doctor anyway. I just had the feeling that something was very wrong. Many tests later, the reason became known.

Lily was only 3 and 1/2 months old. It was November 21, 2005, and I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. As a child, I had been unintentionally exposed to asbestos and 30 years later, I had mesothelioma cancer.

At the first appointment, I was told that I would only have 15 months to live if nothing was done. I thought first of my baby and then of my husband and baby alone. The prognosis for mesothelioma was grim, but I knew that we had to try to save my life. We took drastic measures. On February 2, I underwent surgery to remove my left lung and the surrounding tissue. This procedure is called an extrapleural pneumenectomy and was performed in Boston by one of the best mesothelioma doctors. After 18 days of recovery in the hospital and an additional 2 months of recovery following that I started chemotherapy and radiation. Throughout this, I was still a new, first-time mother

That's when I truly came to understand the meaning of the word village. We were surrounded with prayers, love, and support from different people from different parts of our lives. Many people whom I did not expect, responded to our need. At the same time, there were some people who we were depending on to be there who were not.

It's funny. Cancer really helps you realize who will truly be there for you.

My parents quickly went from being grandparents to temporary parents. Lily lived with them in South Dakota while we were in Boston and they had their own village to help. People, whom I had known from church and grew up with provided support and love. Women that I had babysat when I was a teenager now volunteered to babysit my child while my parents worked, since both parents still worked full-time.

Lily was happy in my childhood home. She learned to eat real food. She began to scoot and roll around. My mom emailed pictures of these events and I saw them through grainy black and white copies that my husband printed off of a community printer. The nurses and I would ooh and aah over her while I was trying not to cry. She was in good hands and she was the reason I was fighting for my life. My parents still have an incredibly deep bond with Lily, even now when miles separate them and months go by between visits.

My favorite quote says that "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” No one promised us that life would be easy, but we've tried to do the best that we can. As a family, we really embrace life now. We know how fragile it is.

That's the lesson. Embrace all that life throws at you. A lot of good comes with the bad, with life in general, and with cancer. As dire as my diagnosis was, a lot of good has come from it. I am thankful for that.

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.

Wow. I ask all of you to please visit Heather's blog. Educate yourself. Help if you can. Spread the word.

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