Guest Post: “The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer” with Heather Von St James

I have a powerful story to share with you today. I have a guest post from an incredibly inspiring woman named Heather Von St James. Heather contacted me earlier this week, asking so genuinely and graciously if I could share her story on Close Families. She needs to tell it. She needs you to hear it. I could not wait to share with you the story of this woman, her supportive husband, and their beautiful daughter. Please visit Heather’s website, www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather, to learn more about her family, her life, her courage, and the cancer that she has beat all odds against today. You won’t regret your time spent over there; it’s a beautiful blog. And here’s her story:

The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer

When someone asks my daughter about my cancer, she always tells people that she saved my life. This is my 7-year-old’s automatic response. It is as natural for her as it is to say that she feels sick or tired. People may not understand what she says, but I will be the first one to explain how true it is.

My husband Cameron and I were married for seven years until we thought about having children. At the time, I was 35 years old and nervous that my age would cause issues. Luckily, we became pregnant within three months and my pregnancy progressed wonderfully. After having an emergency C-section, I was finally able to hold my daughter for the first time and the experience was unmatched by any I have ever felt. In my arms was this perfect, beautiful creature. All I could think of was loving and nurturing the adorable child in my arms.

Within a few months, my life changed for the worse. A few months after my daughter’s birth, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is especially dangerous and kills 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed. According to my doctor, I would die in 15 months if I did not immediately start treatment. I knew I had to decide what to do, but I could not. I was paralyzed with fear as I sat absorbing the news. My husband decided for us and we began to travel to Boston for treatment.

The treatment process began with a risky surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In it, they removed my left lung, and part of the lining of my heart and my diaphragm. The surgery was so traumatic that I had to spend a month recuperating at the hospital and in an outpatient facility. Afterward, I spent another two months at my parents’ house in South Dakota where my daughter was being taken care of throughout the entire ordeal. Due to all the time spent in treatment, I was forced to spend a month without seeing my newborn daughter. The only thing that helped me get through it was the thought of Lily growing up without a mother.

Once I had recovered enough, I returned to our home in Minnesota. At home I started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through all of the pain and suffering, I kept strong because I knew my daughter needed me. She needed a mother to take care of her and guide her as she grew up. I could not allow myself to give into cancer no matter how painful or long my recovery was. Today, my daughter tells people that she saved my life and that couldn’t be more true.

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