Heather Von St. James
Courageous Mother, Wife and Survivor of Mesothelioma
My heart broke again today. Sometimes I don't know if there is anything left to break. It has been broken so many times.
When I was diagnosed, I was thrust into this alternate universe of mesothelioma. For the first year, it was all about me; my surgery, my treatment, my health. But I had met two other patients that were going through the same things, so I was not alone. It was then I became aware of so many more people suffering. Every trip to Boston, I met someone new-- the elderly couple from Utah; the too-young man from New Jersey; the handsome, young father of two vivacious boys from Texas who’s wife also happens to be a Heather. By getting to know this man and his wife, my disease became more about others and my heart grew by leaps and bounds. The love for this family from Texas forever stamped on my heart-- I celebrated every victory with them. But the cancer came back and, sadly within a year, he died. That was the first time my heart broke. I cried for days for this family. I vowed to make a difference. I vowed to be a prayer warrior. I vowed to be strong.
Through this cancer journey, I've formed an incredible bond with other cancer warriors, and their families. My heart grew with each meeting, with each story being told. The family from Seattle, the family from Iowa. Then I began to meet people from my home state who had heard about me, and sought me out as someone who'd been there. Someone who knew what mesothelioma was. I prayed with them, I cried with them, and with each passing the pain of my breaking heart almost crippled me. The wonderful woman who had two beautiful twin daughters. I didn't meet the girls until the funeral. No words had to be said, just hugs and tears of knowing, and an unbreakable bond was formed. My broken heart was mending. With each person I was able to touch, to instill hope, or inspire, my heart grew stronger. Or so I thought. Maybe just bigger.
"I prayed with them. I cried with them. And with each passing, the pain of my breaking heart almost crippled me."
The capacity to love just keeps expanding. I continue to put myself out there despite the fact that I know this disease will rip my heart apart again, as it did this week. A young family, once again, left without their father. And the other, a man who has been a moving force in the mesothelioma community, has had his voice silenced. But his message will continue on through the work of his family. The same message EVERY mesothelioma patient and loved ones screams - A CURE MUST BE FOUND! The suffering has to stop. It is why we put our desperate hopes in doctors who know more than most. But they, like us, are just human and can only do so much against a disease that still has many secrets.
"The same message EVERY mesothelioma patient and loved ones screams - A CURE MUST BE FOUND! The suffering has to stop."
This is why I continue to tell my story, and share it with others. To give hope when there is none to be found. To be a bright spot in a dark world. There are more and more of us, winning not just the battle, but also the war. With every passing year, we celebrate each other’s victories, and I will continue to welcome people with open arms and an open heart. For the only way to heal a broken heart is to make room for more people and move ahead. Do some good in memory of those whose names are forever stamped on it. Their battle was not in vain. And although my battle is over? The war is not...I'm not called a warrior for nothing.
My broken heart will mend, but the scar will be there forever.
Love you S.W and L.D. May you Rest in Peace.