Heather Von St James | A Mesothelioma Cancer Survivor Story

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Lily and I love just to be together. We do a lot of stuff together, we’re pretty much inseperable. We love to bake and make candies. After seven years of being married, Cameron and I decided to become parents and we were really looking forward to growing old together and raising this baby. I was ecstatic but i felt so crappy. Throughout the next three months I kept losing weight to the tune of about five to seven pounds a week. We had known that heather was not feeling well we had originally thought oh this is going to be some simple sort of thing as time goes on you realize wait a minute The doctors are starting to knock off the real simple things. About mid-october I felt like a truck parked on my chest and I couldn’t breathe. Three and a half months after Lily was born I got the diagnosis malignant pleural mesothelioma. And I looked over at my wife and she had this look of just sheer terror.

If you read about mesothelioma, if you do any research, it’s dire. Most people don’t live beyond fifteen months after diagnosis. When I was diagnosed I was thirty six years old that’s extremely young. it doesn’t get the attention that it deserves to not only find better treatments for it but to find a cure. When i was a little girl my dad worked construction. He would come home from work covered in dust.

His jacket would be white crusty from the drywall dust that he would be sanding off the walls. Anything that I had to do outside I liked wearing my dad’s coat. That was just you know unbeknownst to us, it was chock full of asbestos. That’s how my exposure happened My dad worked with asbestos. We were fortunate enough to have a series of doctors who knew where to send us.

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My doctor here knew to send me on to Dr. Sugarbaker in Boston. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is a fantastic resource to find the specialists. It’s a fantastic not only resource for doctors, but treatment centers. Going into surgery was scary. I would keep telling her look Lily needs her mother. That’s the way i kept Heather’s hope up. Lily went to live with Heather’s parents We couldn’t take her with because we were traveling with all the doctors appointments and being in the hospital. After recovering in boston I went to live with my parents in South Dakota. In that three months while i was recovering, Cameron was only able to see Lily for three days. Thirty six hours. But, it’s what we had to do in order to get by and it’s just what you do. Throughout Lily’s life we’ve never hidden the fact from her that I had cancer when she was a baby. We’re very up front about it.

I don’t get in to the dire, you know, what could happen because I don’t operate that way We operate from a place of hope and a place of living in the moment. They asked if I would talk to other patients because of my attitude. I’ve been accused my whole life of wearing rose colored glasses and seeing life very optimistically and I have no intention of ever taking them off. There was no option other than living through this. I was going to beat it no matter what. There’s more hope now than there ever was, so don’t give up. Don’t take a death sentence as a diagnosis. There is hope..