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 dateâ€¦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 worldâ€™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 parentsâ€™ 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 amâ€¦I faced cancer and beat it.
Wow! What an amazing and inspirational woman you are – and you look fabulous n your photo 🙂
It must have been awful to not only discover you were suddeny a cancer patient but that you had to be apart from your darling daughter. Although she probably helped you to fight and beat cancer – someone worth fighting it for (and the rest of your family I am sure)
Thanks for sharing your story and well done on beating it xx
How did you manage to keep emotion to a minimum in that piece Heather?!! Fair play, you had me moved without making me cry yet I know you must have experienced the most vivid emotions of your life during that whole period. I am truly happy for you and your family that you have come out the other end and beaten something so formidable. To take time to write about it and spread the word of hope to others is very selfless of you. Thank-you and all the best for a happy and healthy life x