Cancer plays dirty. It finds the best time in a person’s life and tries it’s best to ruin it. Ask Heather Von St. James.
Heather and her husband, Cameron, were married for seven years when they decided to become parents. They were understandably overjoyed when baby Lilly came into the world. “I was ecstatic,” she says, “but I felt so crappy.” She felt tired, sick and was losing 5-7 pounds per week. About three months after Lilly was born, she and Cameron were given the diagnosis of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Instead of enjoying motherhood and her family, at 36, She was fighting for her life.
Mesothelioma kills 95 percent of its victims within 15 months. It generally strikes people older than Heather was at diagnosis and is caused primarily by exposure to asbestos. Heather’s father worked in construction. As she describes it he would come home with from the job site with his coat “white and crusty” from the dust he would sand off the drywall. When she went outside she loved wearing her Dad’s coat. “Unbeknownst to us,” she says, “it was chock full of asbestos.”
I get the impression that Heather Von St. James doesn’t like to be told what to do. She didn’t take her diagnosis as a death sentence. She didn’t want to hear about odds. “With hope, odds don’t matter,” she says. She was fortunate enough to have doctors who knew where to send her. A few months after diagnosis she had surgery and the long road to recovery began. Today, after almost 8 years, she is cancer free.
Heather and Cameron have dedicated themselves to raising awareness of mesothelioma and working for a cure. They work closely with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Heather blogs her experiences on the site along with other cancer patients. I strongly urge you to visit the MCA website at www.mesothelioma.com Heather’s personal story, in the form of a short video, can be found at www.mesothelioma.com/heather
Even with advanced treatments mesothelioma will kill about 1,000 people this year and 95 percent of all people diagnosed with the diseas will die within a year or so. Those aren’t good odds . . . but with more research, advanced treatment most of all hope they can be beaten. Ask Heather. “With hope, odds don’t matter.”
Thanks for reading, folks. We’ll talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.