Heather Von St. James
Courageous Mother, Wife and Survivor of Mesothelioma
As I lay in bed, wide awake, my mind reeling from the nights festivities, tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks. I thought back over the last sixyears and how far we have come. From being alone, just Cams and me in the hospital, to now, a night surrounded by friends and family, all there tocelebrate life.
Lungleavin day started as a way to cope, a fun way to commemorate a day that would change my life forever, but we chose to celebrate that day insteadof mourn the loss. We celebrated all those that have bravely fought mesothelioma, brain cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, people we know who are nolonger with us. We celebrated those who continue to fight, who at this moment are going through chemo, surgery, radiation, those who are in remission,and mostly we celebrate life.
All in all, over 65 people showed up at my little house, people from all walks of life.
Throughout the night, people would come and go. The stacks of plates sitting on the table by the door waiting to be smashed got smaller and smaller aspeople would take one, write their fears, obstacles and apprehensions on them, then take them outside to the bonfire and smash them to pieces. Thepeople who did it for the first time would come in from the cold, cheeks red and flushed, grinning from ear to ear, all saying the exact same thing,“Wow! That felt GOOD!!” Those who are Lungleavin Day veterans know the routine; they quietly take a plate, go sit in a chair and quietly write downwhat they need to smash. The scene by the fire is a festive one: people holding up their plates, the newbies giggling and wondering how to do it, theveterans showing them how its done. My husband, Cams, is the Fire Master, he stands over the fire with his stick, ready to fish any plate out of thefire that doesn’t get broken the first time, and this happens more than once. A cheer erupted from the crowd as each person steps forward and hastheir turn. We even got the kids in on it. I supply paper plates for the little ones to write their fears on and they get to throw them in the fire andsee them burn. We cheer especially loud for them.
My many guests include friends from my salon days, friends, teachers and staff from Lily’s school, church friends, people I have met throughout myjourney with mesothelioma, and more. Probably the most special thing to me is sharing the night with those who have lost a loved one to this disease.My dear friends Kristen and Kim, who lost their beautiful mother 2 years ago, Sue Vento, whose husband Bruce, a MN US Congressman died of the diseasein 2000 was also here to celebrate. These friendships were formed fast and with a connection that is stronger than any I have experienced. The genuinejoy and happiness that they have for me for beating this disease is something that I hold dear every day.
When I finally fell asleep early Sunday morning, a smile was on my face and my heart filled with gratitude. Another successful Lungleavin Day had comeand gone, and it was the best one yet.