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.

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