A Healing Breath – One Survivor’s Story

Heather, Cameron, and Lily Von St. James

Heather, Cameron, and Lily Von St. James.

Becoming a parent for the first time is an experience that, for many people, can’t be topped. But, what would you do if three-and-a-half months after having your first child, you were diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer and given only 15 months to live?

Heather Von St. James was faced with just that reality. Three-and-a-half months after Heather and her husband, Cameron, welcomed their daughter Lily into their family, Heather received the news that she had been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. That was seven years ago.You may be wondering why I’m writing about this topic and about a family that I don’t personally know. The reason is simple, really. I was made aware of Heather’s story by Cameron recently and after hearing the story, I decided that I wanted to help spread awareness for mesothelioma. I can’t imagine going through what they went through, especially so soon after starting my family. As a dad, it’s a scary thought. So, when you’re given an opportunity to help others spread the word about a disease that is, more often than not, fatal, you do your part and shout from the rooftops.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, this is what mesothelioma.com has to say about pleural mesothelioma:

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare cancer often diagnosed in people who have been exposed to high levels ofasbestos. The malignancy affects the pleura, a thin membrane of lubricating cells that lines the lungs and chest wall. It sometimes takes 10 years or more for changes to appear that are indicative of pleural disease, and even long for symptoms to manifest. These differences can include a thickening or calcification of the pleural lining, a condition commonly diagnosed as pleural plaques. Conditions like pleural calcification or the development of pleural plaques often serve as pre-cursor to mesothelioma.

When they learned about the diagnosis, Heather and Cameron took it upon themselves to find the best mesothelioma treatment care available. Through their search they were led to Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned mesothelioma surgeon at the Boston based Brigham and Women’s hospital. He recommended a new surgical procedure,  extrapleural pneumonectomy, a groundbreaking treatment option offered through the International Mesothelioma Program. Though there were some risks involved, Heather and Cameron decided that this procedure was the best course of action and offered the best possible outcomes.

Seven years later, Heather is working to spread the word, and act as a source of inspiration for those with mesothelioma.

To be honest, my words can’t fully do Heather’s story the full amount of justice that it deserves. Go check out Heather’s entire story.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day just passed on September 26. Please help Heather, Cameron, Lily, and every other person with mesothelioma by sharing this story and spreading the word. The more people are aware of this rare form of cancer, the better the odds for others to survive, much the same way that Heather did.

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