Guest post by: Heather Von St James
“It takes a village” is a saying I’m sure most of you have heard. This phrase is one that I came to know and live as I battled cancer just a few short months after my daughter, Lily, was born. The support of my family and close friends helped me to get through this very difficult time and showed me who and what are most important in life.
My pregnancy was an uneventful one. Our daughter was born on August 4th 2005, by C-section due to her breech position. She and I were both healthy and our little family couldn’t be happier. We were quickly surrounded by our village; my family, my husband’s family and many close friends. We were completely unprepared for the news we would soon receive.
Soon after Lily was born it was time for me to return to work. I was part owner of a successful salon company, and I ran one of the salons. I found out I would be changing salons and helping to take over management at a different location; and although my workload would be lighter, I was not thrilled about the change. Like many new mothers, I was also having a hard time leaving Lily. When I started experiencing fatigue, breathlessness and a lack of energy; I attributed my symptoms to being a tired new mom. When I began to lose weight rapidly, however, I knew it was time to see my doctor.
On November 21, 2005, after X-rays and a variety of other tests; I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. I had been exposed to asbestos as a child and now, thirty years later, I found out I had mesothelioma.
Like many mothers, I was concerned more about my baby and my little family than I was about myself. When I heard the news that I would have just 15 months to live without treatment; I thought about my family living life without me and I knew I had to do everything I could to fight my cancer.
In January, my husband and I traveled to Boston where I underwent extensive cancer treatment. During this time Lily stayed with my parents. This is when our village came through and supported us through a very challenging time. My parents went from grandparents to full time caregivers; and children I used to baby-sit when I was a teenager who were now adults volunteered to help my parents by babysitting Lily.
My husband and I were also surrounded by a village of new friends in Boston who supported us as I went through treatment and recovery, and as we kept in touch with our growing daughter through pictures.
This experience has shaped our lives so much. I learned who my true friends are, came to appreciate my supportive friends and family, and learned how important it is to embrace life and to feel thankful for all of the good in my life. As trying and difficult as this experience was; I am thankful for all of the good that has come from it.