Parenting with a Cancer Diagnosis + Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2016

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Parenting with a Cancer Diagnosis + Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2016

September 16, 2016

Written By: Heather Von St. James

When I was 36 years old I gave birth to my first, and only baby–my beautiful daughter, Lily Rose. When I was 36 years old I was also diagnosed with cancer. My life changed in two of the biggest ways that I could ever possibly think of. August brought me my greatest greatest joy, and November brought me my greatest fear.

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma my husband and I looked at one another in utter shock, and completely terrified. We knew it was not good, and after researching online, I learned that it was very bad. I was given a prognosis that felt like a death sentence. 15 months to live. I needed a plan for treatment because I could not let that be my fate. I needed to beat mesothelioma. My daughter needed her mother.heatherlily

Treatment was beyond grueling. It was physically and mentally draining. There were times I felt as though I could not go on. I had my lung removed in Boston. heather1I recovered in South Dakota with my parents and Lily. Then, I went through chemotherapy, followed by an intense 30 day radiation treatment. I lost around 100 pounds, and felt as though my body was cooked from the inside out. It was awful, but it was necessary. Meanwhile, my husband, Cameron was working in Minnesota, so we could afford the treatments. The support I had between my parents and Cameron was indescribable.

In retrospect, the steps my family and I took were totally necessary, but I can’t help but have a sense of guilt, because that was not what I imagined for my baby. Cameron and I planned to be there every single step of the way, but cancer changed that. It made us make sacrifices. A year that should have been full of milestones and “baby’s first”’s was tarnished by cancer.

While I keep these thoughts, I also think of the positive side. My daughter does not remember the  months she spent away from her mother and father. She doesn’t remember instead being with her grandparents. The bond they built though, in those  months, will last a lifetime. That is something I’m very thankful for. I’m also thankful that Lily does not remember how sick I was, recovering from chemo on the couch, or hunched over in the bathroom, sick from radiation treatments.

My mesothelioma cancer diagnosis changed my life, and definitely made things happen a lot different than I had ever envisioned, but I’m grateful for my health, faith and family. Without the latter two, I don’t know what I would have done. I hope for a day that no mother, father or any other person will have to go through what I went through.pasted-image-at-2016_08_12-09_38-am

As a 10 year mesothelioma survivor, I have made it mission to spread awareness and work to make sure that asbestos is banned once and for all. Over sixty countries have banned the substance, however, the United States and Canada still have not. Until then, awareness efforts must be made, to make sure that everybody knows just how harmful asbestos can be. My exposure came as a young girl. I’d wear my father’s construction work jacket that was covered in dust…dust containing asbestos. We had no idea. My hope is for others to have a better understanding of the fiber, and it’s potential health risks.

September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day! It’s a day meant to of course, spread awareness, but also celebrate those who have battled and are battling this awful cancer. I urge every single person to help spread the message! If everybody in the world can have a better understanding of asbestos and it’s horrible health complications, we’d all be much better off.

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