Guest Post - There is Hope After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
by Heather Von St. James
by Heather Von St. James
There is Hope After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
You have cancer.
Those are three scary words. I know firsthand because I have heard those three words before. I was diagnosed with cancer during a time where everything in my life was going great. I had just given birth three and a half months ago, and now I was being told that I had a rare form of cancer.
I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. That is a cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. There are two questions that I get very often when I tell people my story. The first question is, “Isn’t asbestos banned?” The next question is, “Where did you get exposed to asbestos?” No, asbestos has not been banned is the answer to the first question. Secondary exposure is the answer to the second question. My father worked in construction, and he brought asbestos home in his car, clothes and jacket.
I was only 36 years old when I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Mayo Clinic had only heard of one other person who had been diagnosed with this at such a young age. Most of the people who developed mesothelioma were older males who had worked in plumbing, construction or heating. Soon, I began to realize that I was not alone. The number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma began to increase at an alarming rate.
Many of the people being diagnosed with mesothelioma are in their 20s and 30s. They are just starting their careers, getting married and having babies. A mesothelioma diagnosis can cause a person's life to come to a screeching halt. The good news is that there is hope. More people are surviving thanks to the advances in medical treatment.
Many people may wonder why I choose to share my story of surviving mesothelioma. The reason that I share my story is because I want to bring awareness. I feel like nothing will change unless awareness is brought to this issue. I know that my story can offer hope to someone who has just been diagnosed with mesothelioma. I also know that my story can stop people from fearing mesothelioma. I know that if I can give a few people hope, then all of my hard work will not be in vain.
How I found out I had cancer: I felt what I call "bone tired" all the
time. I was soo exhausted. At one point I even had to take a break
walking up the stairs with my laundry. I was watching Lily at home that
day and I layed my head down for what I thought would be 2 second and
woke up later on.. thank gosh Lily was happily sitting in her bouncy
chair. I knew then that I had to do to the doctor.. and it's all history
from there.. lots of test later, we found out the culprit from the liter
of fluid in my lungs.
What treatment I went through: I went to Boston, to see one of the best
meso doctors in the country, Dr. David Sugarbaker. I underwent an
extrapleural pneumonectomy, basically, my whole lung was removed along
with all the surrounding tissue and replaced with surgical gore-tex.
Then, I had a heated chemo wash. I was in the hopsital recovering for 18
days after that and then spent another 2 months recovering before
undergoing chemo and radiation.
What helped me get through treatments: The love and support of my family
members and the thought that I needed to get home to my baby girl. I
missed the whole 6th month of Lily's life, but I knew it was what needed
to be done in order for me to still be here today. My parents took Lily
in their home in SD all while I went through treatment, then I spent
some time at their house recovering after so that I could rest and they
could still watch Lily for me. I was just so happy that she was in loving hands.
Personal Note: My best friends father died of the same cancer, when she was only 14. He was a green beret in Vietnam and even lost a leg. He survived the war, to die years later of this cancer. - Kari