Monday, March 25, 2013

Cancer's Lessons: My Daughter the Hero {Guest Post from Heather Von St. James}


Whenever people talk to my seven-year-old daughter about her mother's cancer, she's always such an entertainer. However, I love to hear the story of how she saved my life, and when I tell people it's true, they find it hard to believe. How can a child possess the powers to save an all-knowing adult? Well, it becomes a bit more unbelievable when I tell people that she was just a baby when she saved my life.

We waited a long time into our marriage to have kids. Cameron and I were very lucky and had an amazing marriage, and we worked hard to make sure that we would eventually have enough for a bigger family. Finally, we were ready and we took the plunge together. My pregnancy was relatively smooth. There were moments when I was nervous and I had a lot of questions, but nothing really affected me while I was pregnant. However, her delivery day was a much bigger problem. Lily was a breech baby, which meant that I couldn't deliver her the normal way. I had to have an emergency C-section, as terrifying as it was, she was in my arms awhile later, just as beautiful as she could be. I could never have imagined a more perfect moment.

After I came home from the hospital, I spent some time getting used to being a new mommy, but I really wanted to work again. Before Lily came along, both my husband and I worked. It was important that I return to normal life. However, I just couldn't seem to get it together. On days where I wanted to work, I was too tired, to the point it felt strange and I could barely move. Then I started to lose weight. It was so much that I knew something was wrong. This couldn't just be new motherhood. It was time to see the doctor again.

Three months later, after a series of tests, I went with Cameron to the doctor's office. It was three days before Thanksgiving. We had been in the midst of preparing for the arrival of family and of course, Lily's first Thanksgiving celebration. However, all of that changed when the doctor told me that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. It's one of the cancers that people are afraid of, and I was shocked. I sat in the office unable to speak or answer any questions that the doctor had about treatment. If Cameron hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't have been able to move. Without treatment, the doctor said that I had 15 months to live. That blow simply took away all other thoughts but Lily. I was thinking of how I had just met her and started a new life with her, and now things were going to change or completely be taken away.

Cameron was a big help that day. He has always been the most supportive husband, but he really was my hero in the doctor's office. We figured out treatment and got started right away. I was going to see a specialist in Boston known for helping mesothelioma patients like myself. I had to have one of my lungs removed, as well as parts of my chest, heart lining and diaphragm in a surgery known as a pleural pnemonectomy. It was a risky surgery, but it had to be done. I had to get rid of it all.
I spent 18 days in the hospital after the surgery. It was grueling and I was always so tired. I couldn't be the mother I wanted to be, and I kept thinking about Lily. I wasn't able to be there for her during the formative months of her life. It made me ache inside to think about it, but I also continued believing in the future as well. I knew that I was going to be around for many more years to share with her. I kept that as a mantra to hold on to tightly when things got incredibly dark, and they would soon get much darker when I went into chemotherapy and radiation.

Those months were terrible. I could feel what was happening inside of me, and nothing felt right. The only thing I remember now is that I thought of Lily almost every day, to the point that she was the beacon of light when I found myself floundering. Cameron was also my rock, and my parents provided an amazing place to recuperate while also watching over Lily. Cameron was my hero during this ordeal. He was working full time to support us while also trying to take care of Lily and me. So many people came out to help him and myself during this time. I can never say to these people how truly grateful I am to have known their kindness.

I beat one of the most deadly cancers. Mesothelioma usually takes 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed, but not me. I'm still here, and I have a happy family too. What more could I ask for?

Thanks Heather for sharing such an amazing story about being a survivor! For more information about mesothelioma click here.

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3 comments:

  1. Just found your blog and I love it! I also love your hair you're rocking!

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    1. Glad you like my blog. I think you are referring to Heather's hair though. It is pretty awesome! LOL!

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