Points of Light, a nonprofit, honors volunteers and volunteer efforts around the nation for creating impactful change with the Daily Point of Light Award. This week, 12-year mesothelioma survivor and advocate Heather Von St. James was one of the recipients honored with the award for all she has done in the fight to ban asbestos and in support of the mesothelioma community.
Since the nonprofit’s establishment in 1990, following Former President George H.W. Bush’s establishment of the Daily Point of Light Award in recognition of volunteers serving as “points of light” in their community, the organization has continued to award inspiration volunteers or volunteer efforts that impact everything from the environment to education to emergency preparedness.
Heather has long been a point of light in the mesothelioma community and beyond, as she inspires and connects with other mesothelioma patients and advocates for the banning of asbestos. In some of her most recent efforts, she collaborated with Greenpeace to help bring awareness around the importance of maintaining funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and keeping the environmental protections in place. Heather traveled to Washington D.C. with Greenpeace to help get her story out, and talk directly with senators about the potential funding cuts and how budget cuts would impact so many, including mesothelioma patients.
Heather has also teamed up with many other organizations to bring awareness to mesothelioma and the need for an asbestos ban and action from the EPA. Approaching Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Heather attended many different events to raise awareness and funding for important research to find better treatment options for mesothelioma.
Each year, she also helps raise awareness through her event, Lung Leavin’ Day. The event is held annually on February 2nd, the same day Heather underwent surgery which removed her lung, and acts as a fundraiser for mesothelioma and asbestos awareness. The event has grown each year, with over 100 people in attendance, celebrating life, smashing their fears (written on plates), and supporting one another.
These examples are just a small snippet of the work Heather has done in raising awareness, actively fighting for an asbestos ban, and dedicating her time to support other mesothelioma patients. Her platform as a long-term mesothelioma survivor brings light and hope to so many, and Heather spends a lot of time interacting with mesothelioma patients at every stage of their journey.
Because of the nature of the disease, there are unfortunately very few long-term survivors. As a new mom, Heather faced just 15 months to live, and decided to seek aggressive treatment to help beat the odds. Today, she has beat even her best prognosis, becoming a face of hope for other mesothelioma patients that it is possible to live beyond the typical poor prognosis of less than two years.
For all of her efforts, Heather is truly deserving of this award, and she has many plans for the upcoming year to continue raising awareness and helping other patients. We can all be a point of light and get involved at various mesothelioma and asbestos awareness events, donating to cancer research, or volunteering time with nonprofits or hospitals.