Points to Ponder

Heather’s Story

Today I have a very special guest post from an inspiring lady named Heather Von St  James. She is a courageous survivor of mesothelioma and now uses her story to be a hope and inspiration for others. With that being said, I’ll let you read her story…

My Mesothelioma Recovery Story

November 21, 2005 was one of the worst days of my life. That was the day my doctor told me I had a serious type of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. The cause of this terrible cancer was exposure to asbestos in my childhood, thirty years ago. I was told I had just 15 months to live unless I underwent treatment right away.

Shortly before the cancer diagnosis, I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, Lily. She was born on August 4. 2005 and that was one of the best days of my life. I noticed afterwards I felt breathless, fatigued, and totally drained of my energy. I went back to work anyway, thinking my symptoms were caused by the baby blues that some women have after childbirth. However, as time went on, I didn’t get any better, so I made an appointment with my doctor to be checked out. He ran all kinds of tests on me and eventually arrived at the cancer diagnosis. I was shocked and devastated. How could I ever leave my precious baby girl?

I am really lucky to have such an amazing support system. My parents, my husband, my husband’s family, and all our friends mean so much to me. We have always been close and are there for each other no matter what happens. So when I got sick, they all rallied around me to offer the support I needed to make it through this battle with my health. After looking into treatment options, I decided to seek help in Boston where one of the best mesothelioma doctors is located. My parents took Lily to my hometown in South Dakota to care for her while I underwent treatment. It was heartbreaking to be separated from my girl, but I knew that without the treatment I needed, I would be separated from her for the rest of her life.

I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy on February 2, 2006. That involved the removal of my lung and the surrounding tissue. I was in the hospital for eighteen days. Two months later, I started on chemotherapy and radiation treatments. During the course of my treatment, my support circle grew. I met others in Boston who were going through the same thing.  I leaned on them for support and they leaned on us.

My parents found their support system in South Dakota grew too. Children I had babysat for now had children of their own. They helped care for Lily and watched her while my parents were at work. I am so thankful for their support during this terrible ordeal.

My support group helped me be strong enough to fight this difficult battle, and I came out a winner. I am now cancer free and fully recovered. Instead of having to look at photographs of my beautiful little girl, I am now with her every day and I cherish every minute. Please, never take life for granted; it can change or be taken away when you least expect it.

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 more of her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog


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