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A mother's battle, and survival, against cancer

I am honoured to share with you a story of the hardest battle a mother can fight - against death itself. A story that is undoubtedly an inspiration to us all. Let me introduce you to Heather Von St. James. When this happy mother to a three-month old was told she would probably not see her baby grow up, she promised herself that she would be there for her daughter - no matter what. Read this story (also this blog's first guest post) in Heather's own words.

Heather with husband Cameron and daughter Lily
There’s a chance that everyone will come to a point in your life where things change forever. It happened to me when I turned 36. I think I felt every kind of emotion that a person could face from happiness to being downright defeated. The happiness was at an all time high when my daughter Lily was born - August 4, 2005. I don’t think my husband or I have ever been happier. Unfortunately, we did not know what was coming around the corner.

About a month or so after the birth of my daughter, I just didn't feel right. I knew that something was going on with me. I was tired, didn't have any energy, and I was dropping 5 to 7 pounds every week. Of course, most people would say that’s something that comes along with being a new mother. It just didn’t feel like that was it. Sadly, I was correct in my suspicion.

After undergoing a slew of various tests prescribed by my physician, just 90 days after my daughter arrived, my doctor gave me the diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. It's a type of cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos and is found in the lining of the lung. Unfortunately, as a child I was exposed to asbestos without ever knowing. In the event that I chose to refuse any treatment, I’d only have about 15 months to live.

As you could expect, this news absolutely rocked me. The only thing that I could think of was my daughter. It was hard to figure out what both of these people would do without me around. The only thing that my husband, Cameron and I knew was that we had to beat this together. We figured out that the best choice was to undergo the riskiest treatment with the highest chance of long-term survival. This treatment took us from Minnesota to Boston where in February 2006, I had an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The procedure removed the cancerous regions of my chest lining, heart lining, half of the diaphragm, as well as my left lung that also contained cancer. This procedure called out me in the hospital for a total of 18 days. A couple of months later, I also had radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

During that time, I still tried to be the best possible mother for Lily. While I underwent various procedures in Boston, my parents, as well as many of our friends and family, helped take care of our baby girl. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how grateful I am, especially considering the circumstances that we were in.

Sadly, I missed a lot of the integral moments in Lily’s first few months. During this time, she started eating solid foods as well as started rolling around on her own. It was terribly difficult for me not to be around her during this, but I knew that she would get care from my loving friends and family while I was away fighting the toughest battle of my life. While it was difficult in the given situation, I knew it was something we had to do, so Lily would have a mother.

This may sound crazy, but my cancer journey was not all bad, I learned a lot from my battle. My friends, family, and Lily gave me more of a reason to live. If they ever needed it, I would be there for them in a heartbeat. Through this, I think that everyone gained a renewed zest for life. We know that it can be changed forever in only an instant. If you ever find yourself going through something similar, be sure to find the best in even the hardest circumstances in your life.

It's been seven years since she beat cancer, and she's still going strong. I'd like to thank Heather for sharing her story with me, and allowing me to share it with you. Read her complete story here. You can also connect with Heather on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

Contact me if you'd like write a guest post for this blog!

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2 comments

Cropped Stories said...

What an emotional post and I feel for anyone going through this! My husband had cancer when he was in high school and he wasn't supposed to survive, but he did. Luckily. I always joke with him that he survived so he could meet me ;o) It makes him smile. By the way thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment on my potty training post! Just wanted to wish you good luck and I hope you found my tips helpful :o)

TK said...

That's an amazing story about your husband...you should share it on your blog!

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