Friday, June 29, 2012

Here is a guest blog post....enjoy

Having a Village There For You During Difficult Times 

Many people say that it often takes a village to help just one person. While this particular phrase may get thrown around a lot, my experiences in life have made me believe that it truly does take a village sometimes. My daughter, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005 after a relatively normal pregnancy. Throughout the pregnancy and birth, I was surrounded by, what you could call, my very own village. My village was my husband, my in-laws, our close friends, and my entire family as well. Everyone was there to help us welcome Lily into the world on that beautiful day. Everything was truly going so well that I would have never thought that we were really in the eye of the storm. I returned to work soon after the birth of my daughter and found that I wasn't feeling very normal. After about a month at work, I started to feel fatigued, lethargic, and even breathless at times. Some people simply told me that what I was feeling was the after-effects of being a new mother, but I had a feeling that it was something a little different. Because of these symptoms, I decided to make an appointment with my doctor to see what was wrong with me. I had a variety of tests done on me and the culprit of my illness came back with frightening news. This was not just stress that I was dealing with. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005, which was only three months after my daughter was born. After doing some research, I found that mesothelioma is a form of cancer that actually affects the lining of the lungs. I then found out that this type of cancer is brought on by asbestos exposure. I came to find out that my asbestos exposure happened to me when I was a child myself and that it was coming to haunt me almost 30 years later. My doctor told me that I had just 15 months to live if I did not get treatment for the cancer. I didn't necessarily think about myself when I was being told this news. I was thinking about my newborn daughter and my husband who would have to take care of her if I was not there. Thinking all of these thoughts made me realize that I needed to do anything and everything to get rid of this cancer. Because I knew that mesothelioma is a deadly cancer, we made the decision for me to get the most drastic treatment that was being offered. My parents watched Lily for us in their home in South Dakota while I went for cancer treatment. I went with my husband to a treatment center in Boston to get this taken care of. One of the best mesothelioma doctors in the country performed an extrapleural pneumenectomy on February 2. This particular procedure entailed the removal of my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue. This was then followed by an additional 18 days of full recovery while in the hospital. Obviously, my treatment was not done yet and there would be more to come. In fact, I would be going for chemotherapy and radiation treatments for two months following this procedure. I understand that being a brand new mother is hard, but it is even harder when you also have mesothelioma staring you down every single day. Even though I am cancer-free right now, I would not have made it this far if it weren't for my own personal village of supporters. All of our relatives and close friends came out to help me and to help my parents take care of our daughter those long months while I was away. I saw many of my daughter's first milestones by looking at faxed pictures at the hospital, but these are what kept me fighting the entire time. My fight with mesothelioma has taught me that life is incredibly fragile and should be embraced at all times. While my battle was difficult and the cancer itself a very bad thing, a lot of good truly did come out of my time with mesothelioma.

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 more of her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog


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