Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Because of Lily: My Fight Against Mesothelioma

I'm doing something completely different today with this blog post.

I was contacted about two weeks ago from a lady who wanted to share her story on my blog.  I wasn't sure at first why I would want to feature her on a craft blog, but after reading her story I knew I had to.

Her name is Heather and she would like to turn her pain into purpose and raise awareness of this horrible little known cancer that is such a deadly killer and sadly 100% preventable.  I couldn't imagine going through what she went through as a new mother and I wanted to make my readers aware of her story.  I'll let her tell you but here's a picture of Heather and her family happy and healthy today.

Because of Lily: My Fight against Mesothelioma ~ written by Heather Von St. James

On August 4, 2005 my husband and I were overjoyed at the birth of our daughter, Lily. We had no idea that the happiest time of our life was about to become the worst.

I was 36.  I went back to work full-time about a month after Lily was born.  I had no energy and was losing weight rapidly, five to seven pounds a week. Although these symptoms could easily be attributed to new motherhood, I had a feeling there was something seriously wrong.  I was right.

I went to my doctor and had numerous tests.  When Lily was just three and a half months old, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.  This is a type of cancer in the lining of the lung.  The cause was childhood exposure to asbestos.  The prognosis: without treatment, I had 15 months to live.

I was devastated.  I had a brand new baby at home and of course she was the very first thing that came to my mind upon hearing this diagnosis. What would my daughter and husband do without me?  Together with my husband, I made the decision to do anything and everything to conquer this cancer.  I chose the most drastic form of treatment offered, it was called extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery, and in order to get it, I had to travel miles and miles away from our home in Minnesota.  On February 2, 2006 in Boston, my amazing doctor removed my entire left lung and all of the surrounding tissue.  I was in the hospital for 18 days recovering from the surgery, after two more months of recovering outside of the hospital, I began chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

During all this time I wanted to be the best mother I could be to my child.  My parents offered to care for Lily in their home in South Dakota while I was recuperating.  I agreed.  Family and friends helped, and I am eternally grateful to these people who helped us get through this horrible time.  I missed many milestones in Lily’s early life.  At my parents’ home she learned to eat solid food, and rolled around.  It was difficult to be away from her, but I knew that she was getting the best possible care.  I was fighting to live so I could share the rest of her life with her.  It was hard to do but any mother would have made the same decision.

I am proud to say that I just reached my 7 year mark being cancer free. I go every 6 months for new scans to make sure the cancer has not returned. Cancer is a horrible thing, but my daughter and husband gave me a desire to fight.  My family was my reason to live.  Today, our family has a deeper appreciation for life because we saw first hand just how fragile it is.  Anyone who is going through a hard time, no matter how difficult, should look for the good in it and find that reason to survive.

I would like to thank Heather for sharing her story and wish her a happy, healthy and long life with her family!  If you would like to read more about her story go to

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