Heather Von St. James
Courageous Mother, Wife and Survivor of Mesothelioma
I've said it before, my mesothelioma cancer was all at once the worst thing and best thing that has ever happened to me. Getting the diagnoses when my baby was only 3 1/2 months old was certainly not in our plans. I planned on being a working mom, but this cancer changed all that. I get to be a stay at home mom, I get volunteer with my daughter’s school and help out when I can. I actually enjoy it far more than I thought I would. When I worked in the salon, I used to joke that they would have to pry the shears out of my cold, dead hand before I ever quit, but I guess someone had other plans for me. Some days I do miss going to work, but all I have to do is sit and read some of the comments on my blog or Facebook page to know that I am doing the right thing-- I'm making a real difference in people's lives.
The other thing that would have never happened without my mesothelioma diagnosis is I would have never met all the amazing people that have come into my life. I have lost many and that pain never quite heals, but their loved ones carry on their memory and they support me in what I do. The mesothelioma community is small and we are fiercely devoted to one another. We all can identify with one another having gone through a lot of the same things-- the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation. The feeling of isolation, then finding places like this web page, the Mesothelioma foundation, and ADAO—then, all of the sudden, we are a community! Without having had this cancer, I would not know many of the people who tirelessly fight to raise awareness and money for a disease that is vastly under-funded. We are a community of such passionate people-- strong and driven-- not only in the medical field, but just the every day caregivers who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma.
Last week, I was asked to speak at a dinner for the Jeff Crist Memorial Golf Outing, put on by the children of Jeff and Edith Crist. Mckayla, Micah, and Matthew along with their mother, arrange this incredible golf outing. Over 100 golfers were out on the course. The whole community came together to support the family and their loved ones, so to be asked to speak was an honor. Most of the attendees have never met someone who survived mesothelioma. It was truly an experience I will not soon forget, and it encourages me to keep raising awareness. See, without the cancer, I would not know Edith and her wonderful family who treated me like one of their own last week. I would not know my friends from literally all over the world, had I not gotten sick.
Mesothelioma is not just a problem in the U.S., it’s a global concern. The continued misuse of asbestos in countries such as India, China, and other 3rd world countries with no regulations, is only setting them up for future epidemics of the disease. With places like Canada continuing to export asbestos and the United States still not banning it, mesothelioma cases are only going to keep growing. Awareness is key! It all starts with simple awareness and so this why I will continue to do my part.
Mesothelioma Awareness Day is Wednesday September 26th. Please help us spread the word! Be part of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance "Lend Your Hand" campaign! And watch the Today Show September 26th and September 28th for a group of us in the plaza. Better yet, come join us if you are in the NYC area! You can find more info at Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation's site.
Thank you, first for reading my blog and second for the unending support-- I really do love this community and am proud to be a part of it.