Friday, 20 July 2012

Posting two days in a row! Or not - the router crashed last night along with a laptop so this is the third attempt, currently minus pictures as I think they may be part of the problem.
 Here's my guest post from Heather, one very courageous lady who is sharing her story in the hope it will help and inspire others. 

My Struggle With Cancer and the Village that Saved Me
The days between when I discovered I was pregnant and the birth of my daughter were some of the most eventful and joyous times of my life. My pregnancy was normal, except for an emergency C-section, and on August 4, 2005 my daughter, Lily, was born.  On that day, everyone who meant anything to me was with me-- my village.  My husband, our families and our dearest friends were all with me when Lily came into this world.  Everything was perfect.
I had to go back to work within a month of her birth. I didn't feel up to it, but waved it off as just a side effect of giving birth.  I was tired, out of breath, and always fatigued.  Eventually I realized something was wrong, and after a doctor visit and a battery of tests, I learned the terrible truth.
On November 21, 2005, when Lily was just three and a half months old, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.  It's a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which had damaged my lung nearly 30 years before.  
No one wants to hear they have cancer.  It's even worse to hear you only have 15 months to live.  In an effort to fight it off, I began immediate treatment.  I cared only about surviving for Lily and my husband.  My every thought went to them.  Her birth was supposed to be a happy time and this disease was ruining it.  My village, all those people who are always there for me, encouraged me as I started the best treatment I could get.
My parents stepped in from South Dakota to help care for Lily while I was in treatment in Boston.  My husband was there with me on February 2nd, 2006 when I had an extrapleural pneumonectomy.  This procedure removed my cancerous lung.  I was in the hospital for 18 days and spent two more months waiting for radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
As my treatment progressed, my village grew.  My husband and I met other families going through the same thing, and our support networks intertwined.  We leaned on them and they leaned on us, providing selfless support for each other during the worst times of our lives.  My parents had their village grow as well in South Dakota, while their friends helped watch Lily while they worked.  
I welcomed and prepared for the non-stop task of motherhood.  I never expected to be fighting for my life against cancer. Yet I fought and eventually I recovered. Today, I am cancer-free.  I missed some of the moments every mother wishes to see, some of the first things Lily did, but it was photos of those moments that helped me through the whole ordeal.
Those pictures, and my ever-growing village, are why I am alive today.  They gave me the strength to fight and the will to live.  Never take your friends and family for granted.  With their help, you can do anything, just like I did.  My village was there for me and saved my life.
Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

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