Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Embrace Life...

This post is a departure for me. It is actually a guest post by Heather Von St. James, a cancer survivor. She approached me and asked if I would share her story in my blog and I'm honoured to do so.

A 43 year old mother to a 7 year old girl, Heather was given the devastating news that she had Mesothelioma (a rare and particularly aggressive form of cancer with a high mortality rate) when her daughter was just 3 and a half months old. Heartbroken, Heather was afraid she wouldn't live to see her daughter grow up. I believe it was her love for her child most of all that gave her the strength to beat the odds. As you can see, she is alive and well to share her inspirational story.

We all meet bumps in the road of life. Some are molehills. Others are mountains. These struggles test us and teach us how precious life is and how strong we are.

Thank you Heather for sharing your story...


How My Battle with Mesothelioma Taught Me to Embrace Life -- Heather Von St. James

On August 4, 2005, I gave birth to my first and only child, a daughter named Lily. Less than four months later, on November 21, my doctor gave me some of the worst news a patient can hear. I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. According to my doctor, without treatment, I would have less than 15 months to live. Even with treatment, the mesothelioma prognosis was grim.

When I heard the news, my first thought was of Lily. I couldn’t bear to think of my husband raising her alone after I was gone. I knew I had to survive, and in order to do so, I, along with my husband, settled on the most aggressive treatment possible. We flew to Boston where, on February 2, 2006, I underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery, which involved the complete removal of my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue.

When my husband and I left for Boston, we sent Lily to stay with my parents in South Dakota. During the time I spent recovering in the hospital, Lily grew and developed in the care of her grandparents. People I had known while growing up and even some of the girls I had babysat when I was a teen, surrounded my parents with full support and helped in raising Lily. My parents both still worked full time, so they needed all the help they could get. I can never fully thank the people who helped out during that time. Knowing that my daughter was in such loving hands was what kept me going and helped me to be able to actually focus on recovering.

In Boston, I too was surrounded by a group of supporters. The people I met at the hospital encouraged me daily. There were other people that we met who were going through the same things I was, and that was a comfort to me. You never realize how quickly and how close you can get to someone when you have something like cancer in common. Even my nurses were so great to me and such an encouragement. They always came to “ooh” and “ah” over grainy pictures of Lily that my husband would print from emails my mom sent.

While I recuperated in the hospital, my baby learned to eat solid food and scoot around Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Even though she was in good hands, I missed her dearly.

Now that it’s in the past, my family and I always try to embrace each moment life gives us. I am thankful for the deep bond that was forged between my daughter and my parents during the days of my illness when they looked after her. I am also thankful for each day that I have to share with Lily and my husband.
There is no end to the things life might throw at a person. When those times come that we cannot make it alone, others are there to help us. No matter what, embrace anything life brings your way. If good can come of cancer, good can come of absolutely anything.

NOTE -- This was a guest post by Heather Von St. James, who asked me if she could post on my blog. My blog is usually about my daughter and I and my experiences as a single parent however I was honoured that Heather would want to share her moving story with my readers. Her story powerfully reveals that life is precious and you have to embrace every moment.

Recently I've had some people write to me about mesothelioma and ask me to include a link to a website with resources, news, information on treatment, survivor stories, assistance with benefits and claims etc so here it is: https://mesothelioma.net/ I hope that it helps. The site's motto is Hope. Faith. Action.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story! Very inspirational and uplifting, I am glad you and your beautiful family have made it through the storm :)

  2. This is a lovely post, thank you so much for sharing it. I've already lived with cancer, and now I'm hoping to embrace the journey of starting a family. It's wonderful to read about the support and determination, Heather. Thanks for sharing your story.