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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Please welcome my blog guest Heather Von St. James

    Today I want to introduce you to Heather Von St. James. I recently met her online and she has an incredible testimony of pulling through when life handed her a terrible blow. I am blessed to have Heather as a guest on my blog today to share her story.  I hope you're as inspired by her as I am. Be sure and check Heather out online and help her spread the word about her website so can continue to be a blessing to others.
- Lynn


 Being a Mother with Cancer: My Story
At some point in life, you may go through a dramatic change. It can happen naturally or be forced upon you by certain circumstances. My circumstances came about eight years ago. It was right after one of the happiest moments in my life: the birth of my first child. Lily was such an amazing baby and gift to my husband and I, so I couldn't imagine all of that joy being taken away so swiftly. However, there it went in a matter of minutes.
Just 4 weeks after Lily was born, I went back to work. I was constantly exhausted, more than I should have been. In the beginning I blamed it on being a new mother. I also began losing weight at a rate of 5 to 7 pounds a week. It wasn't natural and it didn't feel right. I had to see a doctor. I went through all of the tests and started the waiting period. I got my answer about three months later: pleural malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. I was unknowingly exposed as a child. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. Even worse, I only had 15 months to live if I didn't receive treatment right away.
There weren't many programs ready to handle such an aggressive cancer. It had infiltrated my lungs, chest lining, heart lining and diaphragm. We needed to see a specialist and found one in Boston who had helped many patients beat mesothelioma. On February 2, 2006 I underwent a surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which removed my left lung, part of my chest and heart lining along with part of my diaphragm. I was in the hospital for 18 days, and then after 2 more months of recovery I began chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I didn't even know how to be a mother during all of this, but I was still trying. I had to be strong for my husband and newborn.

My family really came through and provided support at a time when I felt lost. Lily stayed with my parents in South Dakota in my childhood home while I was in the hospital and recovering. Our neighbors, co-workers, friends and extended family all wanted to support us and see me get better. They made it possible for me to get the best treatment in order to be there for Lily and my husband.

Even though cancer is such a terrible battle to be faced with, it has really shaped who I am today. It has given me the opportunity to spread awareness and hope for such an awful disease. I am forever grateful for being able to live my life and watch Lilly grow up.

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