Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Heather Von St James, a mother and wife who went through something we all hope we never have to....a terrifying battle with cancer. Heather thankfully is a survivor and has now made it her mission to help, guide and bring hope to those fighting the battle.
Here is her story:
My Cancer Battle
If you ever were to talk about cancer with my 7-year-old daughter, she’ll constantly give you one reply, “I saved my mom’s life.” It’s become her go-to statement on the matter, similarly as if she’s talking about whether or not she’s hungry. The same could be said as if she’s talking about whether or not she needs something to eat. It’s something that she doesn’t give a second thought about. Of course, most people discount her statement because of her age, but I can completely attest to the truth behind her words.
My husband, Cameron, and I waited about 7 years into our marriage until we finally decided to have kids. At the time, I was 35 years old. Because of my age, I was thinking that I might have some problems bearing children. I didn’t know whether or not I could quickly become pregnant. A few pregnancy tests and three months later, I found out that I was pregnant. We were going to bring an addition to our family! As you would expect, I was thrilled, terrified, and even a little surprised at the news.
I quickly adapted the role of being a mother. I was overjoyed in knowing that soon I was going to be a mother, and I would constantly rub my stomach to ensure our child of the love waiting for him or her. As any mother would attest, there were a million different questions that were running through my head. Mostly, I pondered about what kind of mother would I be. Would I be the fun mom? Would I be a little overbearing? Would I be one of those super-hip mothers? However, I mostly just wanted to be the best mother that I could possibly be.
My pregnancy was pretty smooth sailing. In fact, I could have gone through the process quite a few times. The only hiccup was my emergency C-Section at delivery because Lily was breech. Then, when I finally wrapped my arms around her, I couldn’t believe how I felt. To say that there was a lot of emotion was an understatement. I felt a wealth of love, serenity, and a sense to protect her in any way that I could. I wanted to give her everything that she could ever want and teach her everything that I knew.
At that moment, everything else seemed pretty trivial. I knew that everything that I did would be for her. I never wanted to let her go. I wanted to take her all in and keep her away from anything that could cause her harm. In that moment, everything was absolutely incredible. I wasn’t prepared for what terrible thing would happen next.
Three months after I had Lily, I received news that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. The doctor told us I would die in 15 months if I didn’t start treatment as soon as possible. As you’d expect, I was absolutely stunned and my husband was my absolute savior in that moment. I didn’t know what my husband or Lily would do if I weren’t there. As I sat in silence, Cameron made the decision that we would start treatment without missing a beat. We would do whatever it took to get rid of this.
The treatment meant that we had to travel to Boston to meet one of the most-renowned doctors in mesothelioma. I had a surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, in which the lining of my heart and diaphragm, as well as my whole left lung was removed. This required me to stay in the hospital for 18 days, in addition to an outpatient program for another two weeks still in Boston. After that facility, I traveled to my parent’s house in North Dakota for 2 more months, where Cameron and I were reunited with Lily. After I recovered enough, I went back home to Minnesota to start radiation and chemotherapy.
Even though it was the hardest thing that I could possibly do, I did it for Lily. Although I missed a month of Lily’s development, I knew that this treatment was for the best in the long run. This precious girl needed her mother. I used that sentiment to get through chemotherapy, radiation and a serious surgery.
Being a mother gave me a reason to battle through one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. Mesothelioma kills just about 95 percent of people that it inflicts, but I made it. I knew that my daughter needed me around. That’s why she’s completely right in saying that she saved my life.
If you would like to read more about Heather you can follow along on her blog here.
Thank you so much Heather for sharing your story!