Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guest post: Heather Von St. James talks about surviving cancer

Hey guys and gals,

Today, I am entertaining a guest post from a lovely lady who happens to be a cancer survivor with a moving story to tell. She's a mom, a wife and a fellow blogger. She's on a mission to spread the word about treatments and hope for those with mesothelioma. I always write about my experience with autism and my teen son who's going through some violent tantrums, but I always have to stop and be thankful for health and strength, and remember that there are folks in the world who are dealing with and who have survived much more turbulent times.

Let me introduce you to Heather Von St. James.
Learning About Mesothelioma

I was 36 years old, and the mother of a beautiful little three-month old baby girl. I hadn’t been feeling well, but I never dreamed that the doctor would look at me and say I had mesothelioma cancer.  Those three words left me devastated.  I was terrified that I might die and leave my daughter without her mother.  I lived in fear that I would leave my husband a widower.  More than anything, I was angry at the world and at life.  Mesothelioma was typically a “mans” disease. I wasn’t a construction worker. I hadn’t been in the military. I was a young professional, and a new mother. How could this happen to me? I had more questions than answers, and I felt like I had nowhere to turn.

The question of where the disease came from was easily answered. My father worked in the construction industry. He spent his days blowing loose insulation into attics and walls. We had no idea the dust that came home on his clothes was asbestos. When he hugged me at night, or I wore his dusty jacket outside to feed the rabbits, we couldn’t know that the particles were invading my lungs and starting to damage them. As he moved through the house, we didn’t know that the particles were mixing with the dust and would linger in the space for weeks.  

The fact is that I’m one of the first victims of a frightening trend of new mesothelioma victims. Instead of the workers who had direct contact with this dangerous substance every day, we were only exposed through second-hand contact. We are wives who washed the dusty clothes, sons who hugged their fathers after a day at work and daughters who slipped on his work boots to go out and check the mail. We are the new face of mesothelioma, and we are nothing that you would expect. We are young. We are professionals and housewives and parents with little babies at home.  

The mesothelioma community is an amazing one. We have supported each other throughout the misery of our illness, and we have learned a lot.  We now know that there is hope for mesothelioma victims.  We have seen advances in mesothelioma treatments and we’ve seen people survive this disease that used to be almost completely fatal to those who were diagnosed.

That’s why I share my story. I’m not a victim, but a survivor. My daughter won’t be left without a mother, and my husband will get to enjoy my company for a long time to come. The journey was difficult, but I share my story to bring hope to others. I share my tale so other mesothelioma victims will know that they can also be survivors. You don't have to live in fear, and there is hope for recovery.
- Heather

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