Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dealing with Cancer as a New Mother - A Guest Post

I'd like to introduce you to to Heather Von St. James, a cancer survivor.  I know this isn't a green topic, but it's one of the heart to me.  My mother is also a cancer survivor, and cancer touches everyone.  Everyone.  We all need a story of hope, and triumph now and then, and here's one that will lift your heart.  For my friend Su, who's just beginning her battle, I hope this story gives you courage.  I think of you every day and the fight you're about to begin.

Here is Heather's story:

Dealing With Cancer as a New Mother
My Daughter Gave me The Courage to Triumph over Cancer
My daughter, who is only seven years old, frequently tells people the following words: "I saved my moms life." She says these words automatically, in the same way that she tells me when she is hungry or that she is not feeling well. Her feelings about saving my life are so much a part of her nature that she says the words without even thinking about them ahead of time. A few individuals may think her words are greatly exaggerated, but these persons simply do not comprehend the underlying truth of my daughter's words. Nevertheless, I am always the first person to let people know that Lily's words are absolutely correct.   

Cameron, my dear husband, and I never discussed the possibility of having children until we were married for seven years. I was already 35 years old, and I felt a certain amount of anxiety about the idea of having a baby at an older age. I really did not know how long we would need to wait before I got pregnant, but, after only three months after we decided to have a baby, and after taking three pregnancy tests, we received the news! I was definitely pregnant, and I was going to have the experience of being a MOM!  Whenever I reflect upon how quickly I began to act like a mother, I always start to laugh. I used to place my hand on my stomach and rub it because I knew that our tiny baby was slowly developing. I know I thought of many different things as I contemplated the thought of being a mother. What type of mommy would I be to our child? Would my baby think it was fun to spend time with me? Would I be strict enough to instill my child with good values? Would I be too strict? The only thing I really knew, more than any other thought that was floating around in my brain at the time, was that the most important thing was for me to be an excellent mother. 

Even though I experienced a very easy pregnancy, the experience soon became more difficult. Lily was a breech birth, and I had to have an unexpected emergency C-section. I am, to this very day, shocked when I think about the degree of emotion that overpowered me the first time I held Lily. In an instant, I recognized the fact that I was going give my baby daughter an abundant amount of love, security and joy. I had the desire to help her to attain her greatest potential in life. I wanted to be her teacher and coach. I wanted to give her all the love that I was capable of giving to another person. As soon as I had the experience of holding my daughter, everything else was insignificant. I knew that my future life was going to be focused on Lily. I did not want to ever let her go. This was an incredibly perfect moment. In fact, it was so flawless that it was impossible to imagine the turmoil that was about to come into my life.

I received the devastating medical diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma 3 ½ months after my daughter was born. Besides the bad news, my physician informed me that I would only live for 15 more months unless I began a treatment program right away. I thank God for the inner strength my husband possessed when he heard the negative report. As for myself, I was in a state of shock. I could only think about my daughter. I could not imagine Lily and Cameron living their lives without my presence. While all of these thoughts were racing through my head, my husband Cams paid close attention to the available options mentioned by my physician. Cameron didn't wait for as long as one minute to decide that we were going to travel to the place that offered the most drastic treatment plan. We went to Boston and met with a famous mesothelioma doctor who performed a complex surgical operation that involved removing my left lung, the lining of my heart and my diaphragm. I spent a total of 18 days in the hospital and an additional two weeks in an excellent Boston outpatient clinic. After this period passed, I traveled to my mom and dad's house to recuperate. I spent two months in South Dakota with my parents, who took care of Lily. At the end of the two-month period, I traveled back to my house in Minnesota to start chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

I believe I did what any other mother would do in the same situation. I made sacrifices so that I could provide Lily with the care she needed while she was growing up. I had to spend one month away from Lily, which was very difficult. But, my little daughter enabled me to conquer my fears and undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

When I think about my experience with mesothelioma, a type of cancer that has a survival rate of only 5 percent, I know that the thought of being a mom helped me to fight the battle. The reason why I was able to continue was because I knew that Lily was going to need me for a long time. So, when Lily tells people, "I saved my mom from dying," she is stating a true fact.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an incredible story! I'm so sorry you had to go through this, but I am so happy that you had Lily to keep you going! She is such a special girl. Thank you so much for sharing your story :)



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