Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today I have a guest blogger, who is also a mom. Heather approached me via email and I am glad that she did. I have had my ups and downs lately and had posted some of my feelings and rants recently that I've since deleted. We've all got our issues, but it takes a story like Heather's to really put life into perspective. It's hard to remember when we're in the midst of everyday life and the noise level is so high from rambunctious boys and your nerves are still on end from the emergency room visit for your little one's first set of stitches (btw, he's fine), but take some time to meditate or ponder life and stand in awe of Heather, a fellow mother, who has endured something tougher than nerves on end, and marvel at her positive attitude.

Heather Von St James
My Battle for My Life and My Daughter's Future

Cancer is the farthest thing from your mind when you have a beautiful new life to take care of; my only daughter, Lily, was only 3 1/2 months old when the doctors told me about my diagnosis.  I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of their mouths.  The world was forever changed in that moment.  Nonetheless, November 21, 2005 was the day I found out I had malignant pleural mesothelioma.

However, in that one moment, I felt a wave of strength course through me.  I was about to tackle a life threatening disease that was one of my biggest internal fears; but I knew I could beat it for my Lily.

My strength was coupled with hope as I visited Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.  This hospital employed one of the world's top mesothelioma doctors, named Dr. David Sugarbaker.  With his help and expertise, I was sure that I could live and beat this cancer to see my daughter grow and develop into a lovely young lady.

I was ready to throw the harsh mesothelioma statistics to the side.  When I was diagnosed, statistics indicated that only 2 percent of those diagnosed would live past 5 years.  This number did not squash my hope and determination; I was going to be that 2 percent.  Positive thinking and Dr. Sugarbaker's expert work would surely pull me through.

My life was enveloped into fighting the disease head on for a year after my diagnosis.  The treatment process became a march through my darkest hours, but I was determined to pull through successfully. The cancerous tumor had taken over my left lung, as well as the lining surrounding it.  As a result of the growing tumor, it had to be removed.  This major surgical procedure occurred when Lily was 6 months old; she was living with my parents who were 1900 miles from my Boston hospital.

I fought the cancer throughout Lily's first year of life.  She was shielded from all the chemo and radiation procedures throughout this time with the help of friends and family when I was at the hospital.  Lily's first birthday was a double celebration.  She was the big one years old and I was almost done with cancer treatment.  Just prior to my one-year anniversary of the grim diagnosis, the final radiation treatment was given.  I will never look back.

My perspective on life has changed forever since my cancer diagnosis.  The small things, from a rainbow to laughter, remind me about the value of life and how each day should be lived to its fullest. Appreciate everyone and everything around you.

I will never forget the people that I have come to know and love along this road.  Friends I have lost to mesothelioma, family and friends that supported those in need, and people, like me, that are continuing to battle the disease should be commended.  As a group, they are inspiring; these people are not just actors on a daytime television commercial.  They are real humans with a real disease; mesothelioma awareness is one of my true passions now.

Today, I believe in positive thinking, even on my bad days.  Each day is a gift that should be celebrated by living it to the fullest.