Recently I was contacted by a young woman named Heather Von St. James. As a new, first-time mother Heather was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. She invited me to read about her journey on her blog. As I read what she has gone through I was so inspired by the brave and optimistic manner in which she faced her illness.
Heather wondered if she might also share her story here on my blog. As she so eloquently put it "I'd like to turn my pain into purpose and become someone that other parents can look to for guidance, inspiration and hope in situations like my own."
I am honored to share a guest post today .
I know you will be equally inspired by what Heather has to say.
If you would like to read more about Heather's story, I have added her blog button to my sidebar.
Now, I'd like you to meet Heather Von St. James:
I've been an optimist all my life. Some have accused me of wearing rose-colored glasses, as if that's a bad thing. While my "glass is half full" outlook on life has not always been popular, it never served me better than when I was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer at the young age of 36.
The diagnosis was malignant pleural mesothelioma. It came on November 21, 2005, just 3.5 months after the birth of my first and only child. What was supposed to be the most joyous and rewarding time of my life as a new mother was instead marred by the three words everyone hopes they never have to hear: You Have Cancer."
I realized then that I had a choice: I could give in to the fatalism and have a pity party. I could curse God and ask him, "why me?" Or, I could suck it up and do the only thing worthy of my tiny, precious little daughter: fight it. And that's exactly what I did.
Cancer is generally thought of as this terrible thing that nobody wants to face. And to a certain extend it is. But it is also a double-edged sword, because some of it is good. When facing a cancer diagnosis, parts of your life will be irrevocably changed, some of it for the better. You learn to be a survivor of the disease rather than a victim. You draw strength from trying to make light of your illness. I learned to strip the disease of the fear it usually imparts on people. In doing so, I decided I needed to also help others do the same. Far too often, people diagnosed with mesothelioma lose faith and hope. I chose instead to find the good in having cancer.
I was referred to the world's foremost mesothelioma doctor, who scheduled me for surgery on Groundhogs Day in 2006. I decide to nickname my tumor Punxsutawney Phil as a result. We also christened the day Lungleavin Day, since I was going to have part of my lung removed. Every year since then on the first weekend in February, we still celebrate Lungleavin Day.
Another positive I can take from my experience with cancer is all the wonderful people I met during my journey. These people are some of the most amazing, strong and passionate people you will ever meet. I met fellow mesothelioma warriors who are trying to bring awareness to a disease that is still largely misunderstood. These people have enriched my life. It has more purpose in it now than ever before. I am going to continue to focus on the positives and help others keep hope alive like I did.
~ Heather & her beautiful, happy family ~
Amazing, isn't she?
Thank you, Heather, for allowing me to share your story here.