My Wife’s Battle Against Cancer
by Cameron Von St. James
My wife, Heather received her diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma in November of 2005. It was the beginning of what would be the hardest challenge either of us would ever face. Just three months before, my wife and I had been on top of the world, celebrating the birth of our first and only child, Lily. We had expected to spend the next month excitedly preparing for Lily’s first holiday season, but life had other plans. In an instant, our focus shifted to fighting cancer.
After giving us the diagnosis, the doctor made several recommendations for treatment. We could visit a local hospital, a very good regional hospital that unfortunately lacked a mesothelioma program, or a specialist in Boston that dealt frequently in the treatment of Heather’s cancer. I waited for Heather to express interest in any of the options, but it was clear to me that she was still paralyzed with shock and fear, and needed help. I turned to the doctor and said, “Get us to Boston!”
For two months after her initial diagnosis, life seemed to spiral out of control. Between taking care of Heather, caring for Lily, scheduling trips to Boston, taking care of housework, and working full-time, my life was overwhelming to the point of tears sometimes. There were times when I just wanted to crawl in bed and never move again. I just felt a sense of unfairness for a new mother to be going through this. What should have been the happiest time of our lives was turned into a nightmare of painful cancer treatments and medical bills that were through the roof. I feared losing Heather and having to raise Lily alone and broke. Despite having these fears in my head, I never let Heather see them. I knew she needed me to be strong for her.
In time, I gradually grew into my new roles and learned to deal with them better. I learned to let go of my pride and ask for help when I needed it. Our family and friends came through time and time again and helped lift the weight from my shoulders. I learned to allow myself to have bad days, those are inevitable and sometimes even necessary, but through it all I never allowed myself to give up hope that we would make it through this. Heather underwent intense treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation over the following months. It was tough on our family, but we were able to pull together and fight through it.
This ending is a happy one. Despite the frightening odds against her, Heather beat mesothelioma and is now cancer free, and we’re raising Lily together, having learned so much during our experience. We’re stronger for it.
I credit my stubbornness with having lived through this and become a better person for it. I learned how to take care of my family, no matter what.
Now, Heather and I strive to provide help and support to those currently fighting cancer today. We hope that by sharing our story, we can inspire those people to never, ever give up hope, and to always keep fighting.