Friday, June 15, 2012

Heather's Story of How A Mesothelioma Diagnosis Changed Her Life

This is a new thing for The Pear Workshop, a guest blogger.
I am honored that Heather has contacted me to share her story through my blog. I'm a fan of brave women, we all have a story and when it's shared freely we become conduits for pure goodness.

In Heather's words:
One of the most overused sayings of all time is, “it takes a village.” That phrase is extremely common, but I have had experiences in my life that have caused me to really believe in it. Lily, my daughter, was born on August 5, 2005. I had a normal pregnancy except for the emergency c-section. My husband, his family, our friends, and my parents were there to help us welcome our child into the world. Everything was going so perfect that I did not expect that my life would soon take a turn for the worst.

A month after I went back to work, I began to experience fatigue and shortness of breath. I could have easily attributed those symptoms to being a new mother, but my gut feeling told me that something was not right. I went to the doctor and underwent a series of tests. The results confirmed that I was suffering from something that was far worse than stress.

 I was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November of 2005. That was just 3 ½ months after my daughter was born. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer that occurs as the result of asbestos exposure. It turns out that I had come in contact with asbestos when I was a child.

My doctor told me that I could expect to live 15 weeks without treatment. I immediately began to think about how that would affect my husband and daughter. If I would have died, I would have left them alone. I could not bear that thought, so I decided that I would get the most drastic treatment possible to fight this cancer. On February 2, I underwent a procedure called  an extrapleural pneumenectomy. The surgery removed my entire left lung and all of its surrounding tissue. I had to spend 18 days in the hospital. I also had to undergo two months of recovery at home before beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatment. 

It is hard adjusting to motherhood, but when you are fighting mesothelioma, the task is even more difficult. Today, I am free of cancer, but I can honestly say that I would not be here without my village. My family and friends were there with me the whole time to help me raise my daughter. Even though I had to experience some of Lily’s first milestones via black and white photographs, looking at them helped me keep fighting.

 The most important thing that I learned from my ordeal is that life should be cherished because it is fragile. Cancer is bad, but sometimes, good things can come out of trying circumstances.

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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