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Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Village

The whole point of my blog is to let women know we all go through the same frustrations with life, just on different days. Women really need to learn how to support each other especially when it comes to being real. Life can't just be about expensive purses and achieving our target weight. I felt somebody had to say "Wait! I like granny panties, my life is not perfect and I love my husband and kids but they drive me nuts sometimes and I know I am not the only one!"
This week I have a guest blogger. Her name is Heather Von St. James and her story is amazing. Please read her blog and visit her blog site. Her story will touch you.

It is one of the most eventful times in a woman’s life when expecting a child. The pregnancy was very normal with each movement and kick of my little bundle of joy. Lily, my little daughter was born on August 4, 2005 and I was so excited as I counted her ten tiny fingers and toes. Throughout everything in my life, those who meant the world to me, my "village,” surrounded me.  There was so much to look forward to as we all witness each new chapter in this life – it all seemed perfect.

I returned to work when Lily was a month old. I was not feeling up to snuff yet, but blew it off as post-partum exhaustion. I had no energy, felt fatigued and breathless. Something was clearly wrong, so I went to my doctor. After various tests, diagnosis revealed my condition was much worse than stress.

The news was devastating. Here I am with a three-and-a-half month old baby girl, a joyous time in my life, and I was slapped with the reality that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma-- cancer. That is a word no one wants to hear, but as it turns out, I came into contact with asbestos when I was just a child 30 years ago. This cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos.

My doctor gave me 15 months to live with this disease unless I began immediate treatment. What was I to do? I had a family to think about. This was supposed to be a new chapter in our lives. I couldn't imagine my happy family, my "village,” going on without me. With the severity and grim prognosis of mesothelioma, we knew we had to get the best treatment possible.

My folks offered to care for Lily in South Dakota, where I grew up, so that I could seek help. One of the best mesothelioma doctors was in the Boston area so my husband and I went to seek him out. I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is a removal of the affected lung. Recovery in the hospital was 18 days followed by an additional two months before moving on to the next steps involving radiation and chemotherapy.

All throughout my treatment and recovery, my village grew. While we were in Boston, we met other families who were going through the same thing we were. They leaned on us and we leaned on them throughout the whole process. Back in South Dakota, my parents gained their own little village that helped with raising Lily. Girls who I had babysat once were now adults and offered to watch Lily while my parents worked. Their support meant more to me than I could ever say.

It was my “village” of family and friends who gave me the strength to keep going. I knew I needed to fight this cancer and be here for those I loved. Never take life or anything in your life for granted. Your “village” is a precious thing.

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.