Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Post by Heather Von St. James

So get this: today's post is by a guest blogger. You read right! I have someone who requested to write on my blog to share her story. Pretty cool, since I didn't even know her before we started talking about this, and somehow she found my blog and thought this would be a great place to talk about the struggles she has survived. I feel like I have fans... which is pretty sweet. So without further ado, please enjoy Heather Von St. James' story of cancer survival, which will hopefully shed some light on a very preventable danger.

My Cancer Journey: New Motherhood and Recovery

There can be a time in everyone's life when everything drastically changes, and everything you thought you had comes to a tumbling halt. I finally understood what it meant to have a family. I finally confronted all of my feelings and fears. I went from the epitome of happiness to the lowest lows of sadness. I was the happiest I had ever been when I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby on August 4th, 2005. My husband and I named her Lily. This was the best moment of my life, and I had no idea that just a short three months later, I would experience the worst.

I went back to my job full-time one month after delivering Lily. It was important to me that I got back to normal and into my new routine as a mommy. I started feeling tired and weak all the time. I was exhausted. I didn't have any energy for anything. All of these things could easily have been directly related to the fact that I was a new mother, but I knew it was something more than that. I also began losing weight at an alarming rate of about 7 pounds a week. I just didn't feel right. I knew that I needed to see a doctor.

We figured that the doctor would discover a simple issue with an even simpler solution. Unfortunately, after running a few tests, I found out some terrible news. I went to the doctor with my husband three and a half months after the birth of Lily, where I learned that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. It is a rare but deadly cancer that spreads through the lining of your lungs and is directly related to asbestos exposure. I was unknowingly exposed when I was a little girl. Unless I treated it aggressively, my prognosis wasn't good. If left untreated, I only had 15 months left to live. We decided that I needed to see a specialist, someone who had helped many patients to a healthy recovery after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

There was a specialist in Boston. He was helpful to understand more about the disease and why I needed surgery. On February 2, 2006 I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy. It was a major procedure. It removed one of my lungs, part of my heart lining, chest lining and diaphragm. After surgery I spent 18 days in the hospital followed by another 2 months of recovery before going straight into chemotherapy and radiation. It was the hardest time of my life. It was so difficult to be away from Lily and my husband. I felt as if I was missing everything. However, even at the worst times, I found some happiness.

My family really supported us throughout this ordeal. They provided a constant place for Lily and I to live while I recuperated from my treatment. Our friends also came through for us. I realized that I had such a bigger family than I could have ever wished for. Years later, I have a happy, healthy family and I couldn't be more thankful to have those people who were there for my family and I during our time of need. I will be forever appreciative of their efforts when I didn't see any joy. I got my strength back because of these wonderful people.

If you are interested in reading more about Heather's progress, please visit her blog.

Join us next week when our host is Bradley Cooper with musical guest Mumford and Sons.

I can dream, can't I? :)

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