Hi. I’m Heather Von St. James. I have a husband, Cameron, and a daughter, Lily.
When I was 36, just after Lily was born, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos. People that young aren’t supposed to get mesothelioma, but I did. When I was a girl, I wore my dad’s work coat all the time. It was covered in asbestos from his construction job.
People who get mesothelioma aren’t supposed to live for very long. I was told I had 15 months.
Eight years ago, I had my lung removed. I was more afraid than I’d ever been in my life. To try and lighten the situation, my sister nicknamed my surgery Lung Leavin’ Day. The name stuck, and now we celebrate it every year.
Lung Leavin’ Day is about overcoming your fears. I get together with my family & friends, and we write our fears on plates and then smash them in a fire.
Lung Leavin’ Day grows bigger every year, and we now use it as a fundraiser for mesothelioma awareness. Last year more than 75 people attended—together we raised over $4,500.
Cancer made me afraid of a lot of things: death, leaving Lily, recurrence…
I decided I wouldn’t let that control me, and neither should you!
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