I only have come to know Heathers story most recently. She is a six year mesothelioma cancer survivor whos goal is to provide unending inspiration to those dealing with mesothelioma. Her story of surviving cancer is something that too is very recently close to our home. It seems everyone these days is effected by cancer in one way or another. Her post here today speaks volumes as well of how a community of people, is so essential in facing anything. I know many times I have been very thankful God has placed a wonderful community of people around me to support me and my family through times where we simply couldn't do it on our own.
Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/bio.htm#ixzz1uCtUVhkY
"It Takes a Village" by Heather Von St James.
"It takes a village." That phrase gets said often when you become a parent. When my daughter was born on August 4th, 2005 after an uneventful pregnancy, I thought I understood what that phrase meant. After all, I was surrounded by our little "village" of friends and family after Lily was born. Little did I know how much I would truly come to understand what a "village" actually meant.
About a month after I returned to work, I began to experience a series of worrying symptoms. I felt breathless, tired and without energy. These things could be blamed simply on being a new mom, but I had this nagging feeling that this couldn’t just be attributed to returning to work and being busy with my baby. I paid a visit to my doctor just to put my mind at ease. Unfortunately, I was right. There was something more.
On November 21, 2005, the doctor diagnosed me with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Apparently, the symptoms I was experiencing were symptoms of mesothelioma. It is a cancer of the lung lining caused by asbestos exposure I had experienced 30 years before when I was a child. I thought more of my baby than of myself once I received my diagnosis. Lily was only three and a half months old, and I was given 15 months to live. I knew if I wanted to survive to see my little girl grow up, I needed to do whatever it took to beat the cancer. Mesothelioma cancer is difficult to defeat, so my husband and I agreed that we needed to take the most aggressive treatment measures.
I had a surgery called extrapleural pneumenectomy in which my left lung was removed on February 2nd in Boston. I spent 18 days in the hospital and another two months recovering before I started chemotherapy and radiation. Had it not been for the love and support of my village, we never would have made it through. After my diagnosis, people that I never expected stepped forward to lend support to me and my little family. Other people that I was sure I could depend on fled from me. My cancer diagnosis made it very clear who was really in my village... and who was not.
While I was undergoing treatment in Boston, Lily stayed with my parents in South Dakota. They had their own little village offering them support and help as they transitioned from being grandparents to Lily’s full-time caregivers. Girls I babysat as a teenager volunteered to watch Lily while my parents worked. The community I grew up in surrounded my parents as they took on the difficult task of raising my daughter while I fought for my life all the way across the country.
In Boston, we formed friendships with others going through the same thing we were. The exchange of love and support with the people around us helped us get through the challenges of the treatment plan. Meanwhile, Lily was learning how to eat table food, roll and scoot. I only got to view these milestones through grainy black and white photos that my husband printed off. I shared my pride in my little girl’s triumphs with the nurses even as I fought my tears. I was missing so much, but I knew that she was the reason I was undergoing these drastic measures. I may miss these milestones, but I didn’t want to miss her wedding day or graduation.
Lily thrived with my parents. They retain the strong bond forged during those months even to this day. As a family, we embrace life now that we know just how fragile it really is. Cancer was one of the worst things to happen to me, but also one of the best. It shows me who my village was and just how much I could rely on them in my time of greatest need.