Heather 11 year Lung Leavin

My husband and I have been throwing our Lung Leavin’ Day Celebration ever since 2007.

The first year it was just the two of us, in subzero weather, with our plates, by a pitifully small bonfire. But we did it, we wrote our fears in sharpie and smashed the plates. You know what? It felt AMAZING!!!

I suddenly felt free from many of the fears that had been whispering in my ear for the last year. We knew we had something special, something we needed to share with the world, and with that, the tradition was born.

We decided right then and there, that next year we would throw a celebration and invite everyone we knew. To be honest, I thought maybe 10 people would show up. I was so surprised when many more people joined us.

I heard from many of them after the party that they had never experienced anything like it. A celebration of survivorship is one thing, but to break a plate with your fears on it? No one had ever done anything like that.

Fears are intensely personal. Everyone has something to face and conquer, and to face it, then symbolically smash it, and see your fears in shards in a fire is exhilarating. People facing various obstacles in their lives have gained strength to face them after coming to our party.

After a few years of hosting the celebration, we decided to use the occasion to give back to the two organizations that fight for mesothelioma victims: Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

It is my honor and privilege to use our little party, which has grown year by year, to benefit the larger Meso community. To date, we have raised over $30,000 for the organizations. I learned a while ago that this party isn't about me and Cameron, it's about helping people, it’s about healing people.

This year, my heart is heavy with many worries and fears, but I will write them down and I will smash them and I believe that goodness and love will prevail.

I’m still in disbelief that it was 11 years ago that I was wheeled into that operating room, so scared and hoping for the best outcome. I’m officially 1 year past my best-case scenario and am so blessed to still be here.

I’m looking forward to yet another fun celebration with friends and family tomorrow night, and helping people smash their fears. That, after all, is what the party is all about. That, and good friends, celebrating life, and second chances, and just being thankful for today.

Happy Lung Leavin’ Day!!!