Guest Blogger: Heather Von St James

Recently I was contacted by a woman who hopes her story of her fight with Mesothelioma will lift, inspire and encourage others struggling with this disease.  I don’t know much about this disease, so I looked it up under malignant pleural mesothelioma.  I would encourage you to check out the links in this post to learn more.  The following is her story.

Heather and Lily

My Fight With Mesothelioma: Never Take Life For Granted

Giving birth to a child is one of the most eventful times in a woman’s life. My pride and joy, Lily, came into this world on August 4th, 2005. As I counted her fingers and toes, excitement and joy fled over me. I looked around and realized that my “village,” my family, including my husband, his family, my parents, and many friends were there for me throughout my pregnancy. I thought to myself, “How exciting; we’re all going to get to witness Lily’s future.”

When Lily was a month old, I had to return to work. Physically, I wasn’t feeling up for it, but I figured it was the physical effects from giving birth. I often had no energy and frequently felt short of breath. I sensed that there was something wrong and set up an appointment with my doctor. I went in and went through a series of tests. The results were much worse than I expected.

I had a three-and-a-half month old baby and was going through a joyous time in my life, something my diagnosis would forever change. On November 21st, 2005, I was told that  I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. I had come in contact with asbestos 30 years ago when I was a child and now the symptoms were finally setting in. Mesothelioma has a very long latency period, which is why most of the time, people are in the late stages of life when they are diagnosed, but not me. My life was just beginning.

As if it weren’t bad enough, my doctor gave me a mere 15 months to live. I had to begin treatment immediately. During this time, I constantly thought of my baby and husband. My life wasn’t supposed to be falling apart; I couldn’t imagine my baby and husband having to go on without me. I knew that I had to fight as hard as I could to stay with my family. It was clear that I had to find the best treatment available.

My parents immediately offered to take care of Lily at their home (my childhood home) in South Dakota while I went through treatment. Research and recommendations unveiled that the best mesothelioma doctor was in Boston, so my husband and I traveled there. I went through a procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy on February 2nd, 2006. During the procedure, I had a part of my lung and surrounding affected tissue removed. I had to stay in the hospital for another 18 days to recover. After that, I went through radiation and chemotherapy.

Through this difficult time in my life, my supporters continued to grow. We met other families struggling with the disease while in Boston. At home, family and friends were helping take care of Lily. The support of so many people warmed my heart.

Today, taking care of Lily is a 24-hour job, but it is a wonderful task that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I never imagined that I would be fighting for my life. Thinking of Lily growing up without me helped me fight. My family and friends also gave me the strength to fight. Never take life or the people in it for granted.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.


Von St James Family

Thank you Heather for sharing your story with me and all of us.



About liveinthebadlands

I am a mother of 6 wonderful kids, wife to one great guy, sister to 7 and a photographer.
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