Heather Von St. James Celebrates 14 Years of Mesothelioma Survivorship

14-year mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James

Fourteen years! I still can’t really believe that I’ve made it this long.

When I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, they told me I would be lucky to make it 15 months, let alone 5 years. And here I am, about to mark the 14th anniversary of my mesothelioma diagnosis.

Feelings of Gratitude

November is still a tough month for me. It is like the cells in my body remember what was happening all those years ago. Every November, I feel a little out of sorts, a little tender and a little wary.

This year, I am trying something different, something to reclaim the month for me, not the cancer. I’ve decided to really embrace what November is about: Thanksgiving. I’m not talking a turkey dinner here. I’m talking real thanks for all I’ve been given, and I have much to be thankful for.

Here is the short list:

  • 14 years of survival!
  • My husband and daughter
  • My puppies
  • Waking up every day and breathing on my own
  • All of the wonderful events I was part of this year!
  • All of the wonderful people I’ve met as a result of this diagnosis
  • Starbucks (yes, I’m thankful for Starbucks!!)
  • A roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in
  • Small miracles that happen every single day
  • Being able to share my story and inspire people

This is just a short list of a much longer “gratitude journal” I’ve been keeping since the start of November.

I was never supposed to make it this long. And the fact that I’m still here is something I’m continually thankful for.

Sometimes – ok, more often than not – I get caught up in the day-to-day stuff that is just life. I woke up late, my daughter is sick, the refrigerator breaks down right before Thanksgiving and isn’t repairable so we need to buy a new one…you get the idea.

But then I stop and remember, I’m here to witness and be a part of this life in all its messy glory. Through the good AND the bad, that is what I’m grateful for. It is a daily conscious decision to think that way. It is what helps me through the hard times. I’m even thankful for those.

Looking Toward the Future

As I look forward to 14 years of not only surviving cancer, but thriving, I am setting some goals to achieve in 2020. I am starting my own Cancer Coaching practice. I want to teach others to live despite dire circumstances.

I am going to publish my autobiography because I believe that my story of hope is a universal one that people want to hear. I want to write more, partner with movers and shakers more, and I want to make more people aware of this cancer and give more people hope. I want Lung Leavin’ Day to raise even more money for research and I can’t wait to see what else my 14 years of thriving brings.

I am so very blessed to not only be here, but to be able to do what I love and help others. That is something that will just grow more in the coming years.

Most of all, I’m so grateful for all the support from the mesothelioma and cancer community that has been behind me since I started this. Together we are better, and because of that, 14 years strong is going to be just fabulous!