Today I am hosting my very first guest post and what a post to start with!

Heather Von St James is a Mesothelioma Cancer survivor. At just 36 years old, Heather was a mother to a 3 ½ month old baby girl, and a cancer patient. She hopes that her story will help to inspire anyone who may be in a similar situation. Heather is a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

I will always remember this date…November 21, 2005. It was the day that I became a cancer patient. There were so many things we had to think about. Who would take care of my daughter? How would my husband deal with it all? I was in a panic.

It is so fortunate that I have a loving family. So many decisions had to be made, and Cameron (my husband) and I needed all the help we could get. My parents drove 600 miles to get here, and my sister and brother-in-law came, too. Between us we were able to settle on a feasible plan.

Lily would have to go home with her grandparents for a while, so that Cameron and I could go to Boston to meet with the doctors and concentrate on fighting the cancer. In Boston, I was scheduled to meet with a thoracic specialist. The X-rays I had taken in St. Paul had shown that I was collecting fluids around my lung that needed draining. And it was important to find out why that left lung was collecting those fluids. I also had a CT scan in St. Paul that had indicated that there was a tumor growing in the lower section of that lung, so I was sent for a biopsy the very next morning.

The diagnosis was not good. I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Our perfect world had just turned into a nightmare. Several different options for treatment were offered to us, and we chose the one that was the most radical. It seemed like the only chance I had to live and raise my child. An appointment was set up with the world’s most renowned specialist in this form of cancer. Dr. David Sugarbaker told us that I was an appropriate candidate for Extrapleural Pneumonectomy, which was a risky new treatment that involved both surgery and inter-operative heated chemo. I was afraid, but the risk had to be taken.

My surgery had been scheduled for February 2nd 2006 at 7:30 AM. A week before, my mother flew in to help us get ready for the trip, and to help Lily adjust to being with her. The day my husband and I flew to Boston, my mother and Lily flew back to South Dakota.

The surgery took 7 ½ hours, and had few complications. I remained in that hospital for eighteen days. I lived for the photos that my mother sent every day via email. They were grainy and in black and white; but I never saw anything more beautiful, and waited for Cameron to print them and bring them to me each day. It was second hand, but at least I got to see Lily interacting with my parents! It was a miserable time, but those pictures gave me the will to keep fighting.

By March 2nd, I was able to leave Boston, but went to live with my folks for two more months, until I felt I was able to take care of my child without my parents’ help. My daughter and I needed to get familiar with each other again, but as I grew healthier, she seemed to remember that I was her mother. It was a total of three months before I was able to return home with Lily to my husband.

It was early in May that Cameron, Lily and I were reunited in Twin Cities. As I look back on this whole experience, I realize that the nightmare is finally over, and that good things came of it. Lily is a well-adjusted child that bonded well with her grandparents in a relationship that I pray will last for the rest of their lives. The love I feel for my family for coming to our aid when they did knows no boundaries. I am proud of my husband for stepping up to the plate. And I realize now just how strong I am…I faced cancer and beat it.