Hand In Hand

Hand In Hand

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Guest Post: Support in My Darkest Days

*This is a guest post from Heather Von St. James. She is a strong, courageous woman, a mother, a wife, and a cancer survivor! I am so glad I am able to share her story with all of you!

Support in My Darkest Days

We have all heard the old saying "It takes a village to raise a child." Before I became a parent, I did not understand what that really meant, but I now believe it with all of my heart.

August 4, 2005 was one of the happiest days of my life. That was the day that I became a mom after a wonderful pregnancy. The days that followed were filled with joy. My "village" began to form as my parents, in-laws and other wonderful friends and family came by to meet our sweet Lily. We never could have guessed the trials that were ahead.

After I returned to work, I realized that I was feeling awful. I had no energy and was breathless many times throughout each day. I thought these problems might just be because I was a tired new mom, but I decided to see my doctor. I will never forget November 21, 2005 because I received my diagnosis on that date. When I heard that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, I realized that I was not just the mom of a 3 1/2 month old baby girl. I was now also a cancer patient.

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos. I was surprised to find out that I was accidentally exposed to asbestos as a child. Over 30 years later, this exposure had manifested into cancer. My prognosis was not good. The doctors told me that I had 15 months to live without treatment. My first thoughts were for my baby girl, so I decided to try the most intensive treatment for mesothelioma possible. This involved flying to Boston and undergoing a extrapleural pneumenectomy, a procedure that removed my left lung. After my surgery, I was in the hospital for 18 days. I also went through both chemotherapy and radiation.

All of this occurred when I was a new mom to my sweet baby girl. There is no way my family would have survived without our supportive village. While I was undergoing treatments in Boston, Lily lived with my parents in South Dakota. I know it was challenging for them to move from being grandparents to parents, but many wonderful people stepped up to help them. Some of my childhood friends watched Lily during the day so my parents could continue to work.

My little girl kept growing and developing, but I was not able to witness these things firsthand. My parents did their best to keep me informed. They would e-mail me pictures, and my husband would print them out on the hospital's low quality printer. I would proudly share these new photos with my nurses, but inside I was crying for everything that I was missing. When I became discouraged, I remembered that I was fighting for my life for Lily. She needed her mom, and I was going to do everything possible to get well for her.

I would not have chosen to have cancer, but I learned so many things throughout my journey. I am blessed to know there are people in my life who would do anything for my family. I appreciate my village so much more now that I have experienced cancer.

You can find out more information about Heather Von St. James here.

Show our guest poster, Heather, some love and leave her a comment! ♥

1 comment:

  1. I can not even imagine what Heather has been through. And I admire her will to propel herself forward and endure harsh treatments for the sake of her Lily. As Mothers, we will do ANYTHING for our children. Her story is inspiration to everyone who has ever faced challenges and I thank her for sharing. May God continue to bless her and her family.