This is a guest post from Heather Von St James, a committed mother and wife, a survivor of the deadly disease Mesothelioma.
On August 4, 2005, my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world. After an uncomplicated pregnancy, she arrived to a village of supporters as our family and friends surrounded us with best wishes.
At the time, I co-owned a successful salon with multiple stores and employees. Several weeks after my daughter’s birth, I learned I would be transferred to another location with a lighter workload. I did not want to move salons and did not anticipate being away from my new child.
I soon began experiencing physical changes typical to new moms. I felt tired and breathless with no energy most days. I also lost an average of six pounds every week, which is not normal. My doctor analyzed blood work and a chest x-ray before diagnosing fluid on my left lung. After more tests, scans and biopsies, the doctor changed the diagnosis to malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. Asbestos exposure as a child caused cancer in my lung lining.
With a three and a half month old daughter, I faced a bleak outlook with 15 months to live. Thoughts of my husband and daughter motivated me to seek life saving treatment in Boston. On February 2, extrapleural pneumenectomy surgery removed my left lung and surrounding tissue including lymph nodes, diaphragm, heart lining, and one rib while a heated chemo wash attempted to remove all the cancer.
Following surgery, I spent 18 days in the hospital and two months recovering before undergoing additional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Surrounded by love and prayers, my husband and I met other people who were experiencing similar treatment. Their support gave us the ability to persevere every day.
My parents raised Lily while I recovered in Boston. Their church community and girls I used to babysit helped by babysitting Lily while my parents both worked full time. As Lily grew, I observed her life through black and white pictures. Despite the distance, I chose to fight because of her.
Five years later, my every day revolves around living life to the fullest. I stay home to raise Lily, and we strive to enjoy every day. We teach our daughter the importance of giving to others in need, and we remain grateful for the family and friends who surround us with support. Despite the traumatic cancer experience I survived, I give thanks every day for all my blessings!