“You have Cancer- My story”: A Guest post by Heather.

Posted: September 29, 2012 in Inpire, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

“You Have Cancer.”  Those are three words everybody is afraid to hear.  My turn with that dreadful statement came when my life should have been flying high.  My baby had been born just three and a half months before the diagnosis.  Life was beautiful until my fateful diagnosis.  It turns out I had Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma which is normally associated with exposure to asbestos.

I know what you’re thinking.  How did I get exposed to asbestos if it is a banned material?  Every conversation starts with this same incredulity.  Well, it turns out asbestos is not a banned material. My father’s work in construction, specifically drywall taping, sanding, and mudding, subjected him to asbestos.  He brought this home on his clothes and in his car, and that’s how I was exposed.  The white dust seemed like the innocent evidence of a hard-working man, but in reality it contained dangerous amounts of toxic material.

I won the lottery of rare cancers at just 36 years old.  The doctors at the Mayo clinic had heard of only one other diagnosis in a patient so young.  Usually, older men working the trades and in the military saw enough exposure to develop mesothelioma.  The wives of these men also became sick in droves.  They did the laundry of the husbands exposed to asbestos.  That laundry was covered in dust.  Little did those women know they were exposing themselves to such great  danger.  Children were the next set of victims.  Schools with asbestos tiles exposed young ones to risk.  Insulation in the attic contained asbestos as well.  Every “Daddy’s little girl” rushed for a hug after he arrived home from work.  She wore his dusty jacket to go outside.  Hanging out with dad was a joyous death sentence for these children.

I know more and more young patients with mesothelioma as I involve myself deeper into the community.  They are people just beginning adulthood.  All they want is to get their families, jobs, and homes off the ground, and it all comes crashing down with three devastating words.  You have cancer.  Thankfully, medical advances to treat this insidious disease are progressing rapidly.  We are seeing more survivors even as we see more victims.

A mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating indeed, but it does not have to be the end of your life.  I still hold hope that we can get mesothelioma under control.  As a community, we can support each other and provide shoulders to cry on.  We will herald every minor win against this disease together.  I want everybody to be aware, so I tell my story.  We must build awareness to effect change in how we fight.  We must build hope for the newly diagnosed parent who just wants to start a family, not fight cancer.  If at the end of the day I have removed some of the fear from a victim, then I have won a battle, and I know I am heading in the right direction.

To learn more about Heather, check out & “like” her new Facebook page dedicated to mesothelioma awareness & support! You can follow her journey: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherVonStJames?ref=hl 

 

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