Hello friends! A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman named Heather who had a question about my blog. My first reaction was worry that I had done something wrong. Turned out to be exactly the opposite. Since I am a mother of young children, she wanted me to share her story. After reading about Heather and her amazing journey, I felt humbled she chose me. Afterall, she had no idea the impact Cancer has had on my life (not personally). Here is her story…
Being a New Mother with Cancer: How I survived
Whenever you talk to my seven-year-old daughter about what it was like to have a mom with cancer, she says in a matter-of-fact way, “I saved my mommy’s life.” It’s just a natural thing for her to say, something that really shocks adults who are hearing the story for the first time. People don’t realize how much Lily really affected me when I was in the darkest days of cancer treatment. It was something that I never saw coming and yet, it was also an event that made our family bond so much stronger in the long run.
We waited a long time into our marriage before making the definitive ruling on having kids. The thought was that we really wanted to make sure we were great as a married couple that we would provide the ultimate support for a new child. However, I just knew. Something in me knew that I had to have a baby that year, and so we did. It happened rather quickly. It was funny to go through pregnancy, rubbing my belly and having all sorts of funny questions, at least a thousand a day in fact. I didn’t know what kind of parents we would be either. Would we be fun? Strict? How would we protect her from everything? I finally realized that it really didn’t matter what kind of parents we were. We just had to be good parents that took care of her and provided for her in all ways that we could.
Pregnancy went smoothly. It was actually one of the better times of my life. The delivery was a bit difficult. I was informed on that day that Lily was a breech baby. I had to have an emergency c-section. It was terrifying! I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t want Lily to be in danger. Our doctor was truly wonderful, and soon I was holding her in my arms, staring into her lovely face and feeling all the happiness in the world welling up inside of me. I felt like I was the best mother, and that I was going to be the best mother for as long as I had breath.
After we got Lily home, I wanted to go right back to work. I didn’t want to wait around, and I was a little restless. However, it became much more difficult than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, I was just exhausted every day to the point that I was so tired, I could hardly get out of bed. I felt sick, like something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I kept going until I started to lose great amounts of weight each week. It was alarming to my husband and I. So I went back to the doctor, and after three months of testing, we went to the doctor’s office and found out that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma.
You can’t imagine what it was like to sit there, hearing those words, feeling that there was something wrong inside of you and suddenly realizing that it was going to kill you. That was the type of cancer that I had. The doctor said that I had 15 months to live without treatment. I looked at Cameron and then back to the doctor, but all the time, I was thinking of Lily. I didn’t even know what to say when he asked about treatment. Cameron is my rock and knew exactly what I needed. We were going to see a specialist in Boston who had worked with mesothelioma patients like myself before. There were really no other programs in Minnesota fit to handle my condition.
The first thing that I had to go through was surgery. It was incredibly risky. I had to have one of my lungs removed in addition to my chest lining, parts of my diaphragm and parts of my heart lining. The surgery was the first step in a long process that felt like torture. The only thing that got me through those days in the hospital was thinking of Lily. I wouldn’t see her for months while I went through chemotherapy and radiation. I knew that somewhere in the future I was going to hold her again and go through all of the things that I wanted as a new mother. I would be able to take care of her again and nurture her to be the kind of strong woman that she needed to be. I kept my dreams
alive that I had as a pregnant mother and used those to get through the darkest times of my life.
I have to thank my husband for everything that he did for me. He was truly there for me at a dark time. My family and friends also were there as well. However, the thing that really made a difference was having Lily. I don’t know if I would have had the same strength to get through mesothelioma without her presence and love.
Please take some time to read more about Heather Von St. James, her family and the truly uplifting work she is doing everyday!