May 16, 2012

Guest Post: "Battling Cancer With Support From Family and Friends" by Heather Von St James

Belated Happy Mother's Day to all! (slight delay due to sinus infection...)

I have my first guest post here!
This is Heather and her family. And this is her story:
Heather Von St. James with Family

Battling Cancer With Support From Family and Friends

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer in November of 2005, I was a new mother whose daughter was just three and a half months old.  I thought I had my whole life ahead of me; so receiving this diagnosis was devastating, especially when I learned that unless I sought aggressive treatment, I would only have about 15 months to live.  No one wants to hear that, and I was only in my 30s.  Despite my fear, I was determined to stay strong for my daughter and husband.  

My husband and I went to Boston to pursue the most intensive mesothelioma treatment options available, and I gathered up all of my energy to face the battle ahead.  While there, I underwent the removal of my left lung, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It was exhausting, but my husband was there to support me, and I had many devoted friends and family members helping us from a distance.  I don't know what I would have done without my parents, who took on the care of our infant daughter Lily while I was in the midst of these grueling treatments.  

My parents back home in South Dakota were integral in raising Lily during this period of her life, and the people who I grew up with stepped up to help them in any way they could, providing babysitting services and old baby supplies to help keep them going while they all prayed for my recovery.  Even though I was far away from them, I was constantly aware of their love and concern.  Knowing how much they cared about me went a long way toward strengthening me during that dark time.

Even though getting cancer was a horrible experience, it was truly moving to see how many people would be willing to go out of their way to help me and my family when offered the chance.  Of course, some people who I thought were friends high-tailed it out of there, but I came to appreciate who truly was there for me, and it has given me a better understanding of how to treat others who are in need.  While leaning on the support of old friends, I also made new friends who helped cheer me on through my treatments and whose friendship I will always treasure.

Now I just take one day at a time and am grateful for every moment.  I know that no matter how well I seem, more cancer could always emerge, but I am determined to enjoy every day as much as I can, and this is the way everyone should live, whether or not they are battling a deadly disease.  Life can change suddenly, and all we can do is enjoy it and do everything in our power to preserve it.  Moreover, if we can make someone else's burden lighter along the way, that is truly making the most out of life.

May 10, 2012

I'm a proud Mama!

 I am a mother of an artist! (I am totally bragging about it)

There are two local public school art exhibits going on right now - one at a gallery on our local university, and the other at a small art gallery downtown. And my son J's art works are at both sites! 
Art is probably his favorite subject. This was his first year having art class and he is absolutely loving it. 
It's one of the reasons why he looks forward to Friday (along with chicken sandwich on hot lunch menu, and having weekend coming so that he can play game with his cousins and all that).

Here is his penguins. 
I love the 2nd guy from left sliding down.  Weeeee!
Each pieces were hand ripped, not cut with scissors, J told me. 
Sounds like fun to me!

And here is his happy smiley lizard guy.
(I sure thought it was chameleon, but...)
Doesn't he make you smile?
Today was "artist reception" at the local art gallery, so we invited his grandma, Papa (a.k.a. grandpa), and grandma-great.  He was explaining to them that, for this piece, he first drew with crayon, then he filled all the white spots with paint. He sounded just like a proud artist would.

Oh, he said both of them took him 4 Fridays to finish, whereas other pieces usually take him 2 or 3 Fridays to finish. So, yeah, they were special ones for him.

I can't wait to display these in my house! I'm thinking making our staircase wall to be art gallery.

May 4, 2012

A gift of journals

It was not a New Year resolution, but about a few months ago, I decided to start a journal.

For each child. (Blue for J, pink for M, and green for K - the color happens to match to their baby blankets, kind of. )

I don't do scrap booking for my family. Kids have kinda-sorta-filled baby books. I have tons of pictures in my PC, not printed. I have several journals that I write from time to time, including this one and the one include not-so-happy stuff.

But this is going to be different. It is more like letters to them. I am writing individual journals not only to record our family memories and their milestones, but also to share my thoughts, hopefully, for many years to come. I am writing anything I want each one of them to know; I am sharing my memory, my experience, my wisdom, and most of all, my love.

My hope is that sometime in the future when they are away from home and face challenges in life, they will open this and read to remember how much they are loved and they will be able to overcome whatever the hardship they may face. I hope, as I share things in their journals, they will not make the same mistakes that I made or misery I struggled through when I was younger.

So, I write occasionally, like maybe once every week or so, when they do something funny or special. From the topic, I usually move onto share my thoughts and experience or whatever I want to share.

Because I want them to know that I will always love them no matter what (yes, it gets harder when a 2-year-old is throwing a full-blown tantrum throwing toys at...but that's another story), and that each one of them are a very special child with special qualities.

Would they roll their eyes when they read it? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see.

May 2, 2012

Only about 3 years away from's one way to look at it.

This morning, I complained to my husband that this whole stay-at-home-mom thing is hard. Everyday mundane things, like the never-ending piles of laundry and dishes (I was looking at sink full of dishes from last night even though I ran a load last night. Hmmm...). 

So, he said to me,
"Honey, you are only about 3 years away from half-retirement!"

I said, "half-retirement?", just puzzled. 

He said, "Well, in about that time our youngest will be school. And when you clean the house or whatever, they will stay the same way for about 8 hours till kids come home. Isn't that great?"

I knew why I married to this guy. 
 Oh, by the way, isn't this a beautiful flower? I took it a couple of weeks ago when it was nice and sunny out. (I know it's totally out of contents here, but this photo just made me feel more peaceful.)

In a meantime, for about another 3 years, I will keep my spirit up for raising these fun crazy kids who I absolutely adore, and try not to focus too much on those piles of dishes and laundry....

Because, honestly, there is no way I can keep my house clean with this monster K.
He is just too much fun.