Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Beautiful story of survival, strength, faith, and courage

Hello fellow bloggers, so I recently had the privilege of getting an email from someone who had a question about my blog, someone I had never known before. While a little bit skeptical at first, I emailed her back and found out that she was not only a mother to a 6 1/2 quirky little girl, as she put its, but a courageous mother, wife, and survivor of mesothelioma cancer, wanting to share her inspirational story with others. As a motivational speaker and inspiration to others, she felt that sharing her story on my blog would be an excellent place to let people read about her own personal journey. Of course, after reading her story and visiting her blog, I told her I'd be honored. Her story had really touched me, and having a friend who was diagnosed with cancer many years back, it had hit close to home. After reading Heather's story, I realize how thankful I am to be a mother to two, amazing little children, and to be able to be with them and watch them grow each and every day. I am truly thankful for this. :)
Here is Heather's story of survival, strength, faith, and courage. Thanks for taking the time to read this and please visit her personal blog at

Thank you Heather for allowing me to post your story here and taking the time to share your amazing story with others!

Living Life to the Fullest Despite Cancer

There is a line in the film "Auntie Mame" that strikes me as a wonderful way to see things. "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. . ." On November 21, 2005, this quote became my mantra. I learned that life is a banquet and it can be short, so I have to eat while I can. That day, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Lung cancer. My only child was a mere three months old. I was facing life and death as a young mother.

Of course, this disease was like facing down a dark nightmare. It was also a way to learn something about myself. I am not a poor sucker. Dr. David Sugarbaker at Boston's Brigham and Women's helped me realize that. Yes, my chances were slim--Something like 2% chance of seeing my child grow past five years. Two-percent is still some percent and I knew it. It became my goal to be included among those lucky banquet-eating few. My daughter could not grow up without a mom. I could not give up.

The first year after being diagnosed with this deadly disease was very difficult. Obviously, it was not impossible to beat, but that does not make it easy. I had my entire left lung removed. I was in Boston, hanging on to life by a thread while my daughter was with my parents nearly 2,000 miles away.

After surgery, it was never-ending chemotherapy and radiation. I managed to be a mom while being as sick as I had ever been in my life. I received help from loved ones that gave me strength, and my daughter attention that we needed. By the time my daughter had her first birthday, it was very close to a year since my diagnosis. I was close to the end of my mesothelioma treatment and hopeful that my cancer would stay gone.

Since my battle with cancer, I have come to several realizations. Nothing in life is replaceable. Everything, every moment, every loved one, should be treasured. I have learned to indulge in the buffet and never allow myself to starve. Every little thing means so much more to me. Beauty is more beautiful and it comes in the form of my growing daughter. I have learned that life is meant to be lived, not survived.

Getting sick had a strange side effect that one might not expect from cancer. It allowed me to meet some of the strongest and bravest people I have ever known. These people will now forever be a part of me. These people inspired me to work at raising awareness for mesothelioma. I live life to the fullest while trying to help pave the way for others to do the same because of these brave folk.

-Heather Von St. James

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