Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heather's Story

Hey, everyone!  Today we are featuring a guest post from Heather Von St. James.  She is a mom and a cancer survivor who contacted us recently about sharing her story in order to encourage others who are facing trials. 

I was touched by her story, as I lost my dear friend Denise to cancer a year ago.  Like Heather, she was diagnosed when her only child was a baby and fought hard to survive.  Defying the odds, she made it 10 more years and was an inspiration to me.  I learned and grew so much through her friendship.  

Given that background, as I learned more about Heather, I just loved her story.  I loved her optimism, and the way she cherishes the opportunity to be a mother.  Here is Heather's story in her own words.  I will provide a few links at the bottom of the post if you would like to learn more.  Enjoy!

A Mother's Love Triumphs Over Cancer

Before I even became pregnant, I was prepared to be a mother. Leaving nothing to chance, I had combed through all the best books, maintained a proper diet and consulted the finest doctors. During the day I would play out in my mind the way our life would center around our baby. Naturally, I was overjoyed with anticipation. When my daughter, Lily, finally was born and I took that first look into her eyes, I felt that surely I must be the happiest mother alive.

Unfortunately, the pure delight of enjoying Lily's birth was stolen away from me 3 months later, when I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. In those days of pleasantly preparing to share our life with our new baby, I had never imagined that I would be struck with cancer. The fact that it was mesothelioma made matters even more desperate because my doctor informed me that unless I started treatment immediately, I was looking at the possibility of having only 15 months to live. My motherly instinct drove me to stay strong and to fight with every ounce of my being for the sake of our daughter.

Together with my husband, we decided that Boston offered the best treatment prospects. While I fought for my life 1,200 miles away, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I had to endure the agony of being away from my daughter. The surgery kept me away from her for an entire month, and thereafter, I missed out on the remaining first year of Lily's life, going in and out of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I was very fortunate, however, to have Lily under the care and protection of my parents, who were able to provide her with a sense of normalcy during this trying period. Moreover, my husband and a strong network of caring friends continually lifted my spirits throughout the ordeal.

After I returned home, I wanted more than ever to spend every minute with Lily. When my strength permitted me, we would go on walks, play in the park, or hang out with friends. I wanted her to understand how much I had missed her and how much love I had for her. My husband, Cam, and I never take the time we have to spend with Lily for granted. She is almost eight years old now and not a day passes in which we do not realize how lucky we truly are to have her in our lives.

I beat cancer and in sharing this story with others, I hope that I can inspire them to never surrender to pain and hardship, but rather overcome them through love and optimism. Realize that you are not alone and that there are others out there who are facing similar circumstances and that with a spirit of hope you can be victorious over anything.

To learn more about Heather, click here.  There is a beautiful video about her family, and lots more to read.  I especially enjoyed this about the role faith played in her recovery. 

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