Life is Beautiful Project Presents: The Love Of Family
|by Heather Von St. James|
I have heard many people say that it takes a village, but I have never understood what that phrase meant until now. On August 4, 2005, I gave birth to my daughter. I had no complications during the pregnancy and had a C-section at delivery. My “village” of people included my husband, parents, and friends. Everything was fine, or at least I thought it was.
I went back to work after a month, but I felt tired and had no energy. My doctor completed tests, and then we found our answer. November 21, 2005, was the day that my entire life changed. My daughter was only a few months old and I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. The doctor said that this cancer invaded the lining in the lungs and was caused by asbestos exposure. When I was a child, I had been exposed to the substance and it was now showing its ugly head in the form of mesothelioma cancer.
The first thing that I thought about was my daughter. The doctor told me if I did not receive treatment, I would have about 15 months to live. If I decided to move forward with treatment, then I would undergo surgery that would remove my left lung and the surrounding tissue. My husband and I decided to go to Boston, and on February 2 I underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery. The next 18 days were spent at a hospital, and then there were two months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments once I returned home.
My parents took care of Lily while I was in the hospital. Coworkers, friends and family volunteered to watch Lily and help my parents in any way that they could. Lily began to eat solid food, roll, and crawl. The only way that I could see her was through black and white pictures that my mom would email and my husband printed off on the community printer at the hospital. I knew that I was fighting for my daughter and she was being taken care of while I was fighting.
The only way that we were able to get through this difficult time was because of our village. Our family and friends were by our side through the entire period of waiting and treatments. There were people who we had not seen before who offered to help us. Cancer is a funny thing, with the bad comes a lot of unexpected good. My family now understands truly how fragile life can be. Because of this, we live life to the absolute fullest and we cherish each moment we have.
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.