Welcome guest blogger — Heather Von St. James!
Finding out you have cancer is not an experience that most people would celebrate, and I was no exception. It seemed particularly unfair that the diagnosis came just three and a half months after the birth of my precious daughter. This was my first child. It should have been a time of great fun and delight.
Instead of congratulations, I was presented with the devastating diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 25, 2005. This is an extremely aggressive cancer with a dismal survival rate. Why me? Why now? Then it hit me: why not me? When would be a good time?
I decided not to give in to despair, but to meet this disease head-on. I had a beautiful daughter to bring up. I wanted to be there for her first day of kindergarten and her final day of high school. I wanted to witness her walk down the aisle on her wedding day. I wanted to rejoice with her on the birth of her own children. I wanted to be there to cheer her on through good times and bad.
I had to beat this cancer in order to do that. I had to keep hope alive and well and fighting for me every minute of every day. This started with a referral to a leading mesothelioma doctor who started the process of replacing terror and despair with hope.
Along with hope, I turned to laughter. The day of my surgery happened to be Ground Hog’s Day. What better name for the tumor than Punxsutawney Phil? This was one groundhog that should never see his shadow! We began to celebrate Groundhogs Day, renaming it Lungleaving Day. That was the day my diseased left lung was removed. It left, taking with it the tumor. Good riddance. Don’t look back. It has been a long road, but each day is celebrated as a victory. We laugh a lot at our house. We love a lot, too.
Along the way I have met so many courageous and delightful individuals. I wouldn’t have known these new friends if I hadn’t received that diagnosis, awful as it seemed then. I’ve dedicated my life to celebrating hope, for me, for all other cancer survivors, and for all other people who’ve been diagnosed with this disease. Hope for the patients and their families, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. Hope for all of my new friends. Hope for myself, and most especially, hope for my little girl.
My life has a new sense of purpose and fulfillment. I want to help others who face this diagnosis and work toward recovery. Laughter rings through the house on a regular basis. On that day years ago, I could not have guessed the joys that would come to us because we are in this fight. Hope is a rare and precious gift. It’s also free to anyone who needs it. You just have to reach out to the person next to you, give a smile or a hug, welcome the new day with thankfulness, and have a laugh ready for tough moments. Laughter and tears and the hugs of loved ones get you through the days.
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Heather Von St James is a mesothelioma survivor and a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to anyone who may be going through similar situations to her own.
Check out Heather’s story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog. http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/