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I believe that everyone's paths cross for a reason. So when Heather reached out with her story, I wanted to share it with all of you. One never knows what the future holds. Maybe one day you too will share her story and and save someone's life.

Heather's Story

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.

 

A journey with mesothelioma

Raising a child is a personal thing to many, but when I was pregnant, many people reminded me that it takes a village to do so.  I understood the idea, but I took it to heart in the year following my daughter's birth.  The emergency C-section on August 4, 2005, was the only complication of the pregnancy.  This complication paled in comparison to what I was about to endure.

My return to work was challenging.  I figured my fatigue was due to being a new mother, but I became breathless as well.  This was more alarming and I made a doctor's appointment to find out what was wrong.  The myriad of tests that the doctor ordered produced an unpleasant result.  My unknown childhood exposure to asbestos was at the root of the problem; I had malignant pleural mesothelioma .  This cancer was affecting the lining of my lungs and it was not a good diagnosis.  If I did nothing, I could expect to live for another 15 months.  

As a new mom, all I could think about was my husband and Lily.  Their having to go on without me was unbearable and I knew that doing nothing wasn't an option.  We made arrangements to have Lily stay with my parents while I underwent treatment in Boston to have my left lung was removed by one of the best mesothelioma doctors available on February 2, 2005.  This treatment for mesothelioma was one of the most extreme options, but extreme measures were needed if I was going to overcome this cancer.  I spent 18 days recovering in the hospital.  It took another two months of recovery before I was ready for chemo and radiation therapy.  

Lily was in great hands in my childhood home of South Dakota.  My parents have a special bond with her to this day and while it was difficult for everyone, they had the opportunity to be there for Lily when I couldn't.  Their own village came to their aid in many ways. Children I once babysat now served as babysitters for Lily when my parents were at work. Church friends showed emotional and physical support, providing meals and companionship, as they were needed.  My own support system in the hospital consisted of a fantastic nursing staff.  My nurses admired the grainy photocopies of pictures that my parents sent so that I could see how Lily was growing.  

The impact cancer has on a life is unnerving, but amazing.  It's frightening to face the unknown, but it's amazing to experience the kind of support that our friends and family provided.  Some people became uncomfortable with the situation and were out of sight.  It's funny that cancer can have that effect on people that you thought you could rely on, but human nature is a funny thing.  Our village was amazing and I know that if I have a need, I can count on my village at any time.  

Cancer has enabled us to better grasp just how precious life is.  It's not easy, but it is wonderful.  A lot of good has resulted from our experience with this deadly disease and we don't take our days for granted. Whatever your need, be thankful when your village is there for you.  Be willing to be a part of other people's lives and villages when they face fearful circumstances. You have the ability to make a difference.

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 blog at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog 

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