Story of Cancer Survivor and Mesothelioma Research Funding Advocate

Lily Helped Me Through Cancer ~ Guest Post by Heather Von St James

My seven-year-old daughter knows a lot about cancer, and she knows that she helped me to survive this disease. Telling people that she saved my life has become as common as saying that she needs to eat or doesn’t feel well. Even though people may doubt if what she says is true, I am always the first to tell them that she is 100% correct.

Unlike many couples, my husband Cameron and I did not have kids immediately after our marriage. As a matter of fact, I was 35 when we decided to try. Only three months later I found out that I was pregnant! When I realized that I was pregnant, I was extremely overjoyed and also extremely nervous. I often found myself rubbing my belly and thinking about our baby that was growing inside of me. I didn’t know if I would be a fun mom or a strict mom, but I knew that I was going to be a good mom.

Although I had to have an emergency C-section, I was lucky and did not have many problems throughout my pregnancy. Once she was born everything was perfect. As soon as I got to hold her in my arms, I realized that I would do anything to keep her safe and happy. Holding her made me realize that nothing else mattered; my life was simply about her, and I would do anything for her. However, it did not take long for life to take a drastic turn.

Lily was only 3 ½ months old when I learned that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Had I not begun treatment immediately, I would have only lived for 15 months. Luckily, I had my husband with me after the diagnosis. He made the decision for us to go to Boston to be under the care of one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the world. There, I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy in which they removed my left lung, as well as the lining of my heart and diaphragm. My recovery period was extremely long. I spent 18 days in the hospital, two weeks at an outpatient facility, and two months at my parents’ home. Afterwards, I began my chemotherapy and radiation treatments back home.

This ordeal forced me to make sacrifices. As a matter of fact, I sacrificed the entire 6th month of Lily’s life. In the grand scheme that may not sound like a long period of time but it felt like an eternity. She changed so much in a month while I was across the country. But, knowing that my little girl needed me gave me the ability to face all of my treatment procedures.

Being a mother gave me the strength to fight a disease that kills almost 95% of the people who are diagnosed. I overcame what seemed like insurmountable odds because of my little girl. Therefore, Lily is not over exaggerating one bit when she says that she saved my life.

Heather Von St. James is an American cancer survivor, cancer research advocate, and blogger.

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