A couple of weeks ago, a woman named Heather Von St. James wrote me an email asking that I post on my blog about her and her malignant pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. I’d heard of the disease and knew it was a nasty cancer caused by exposure to asbestos but I wasn’t sure what I could really say about her or her disease that would be meaningful. So I asked her to write a guest post.
She replied something along the lines that she’d prefer that I write about what I know of her story…which meant I’d have to read and / or watch (the video of) her story.
It’s taken me a few weeks, I won’t lie. I’ve been busy with the holidays and blah blah blah. The truth is that I was a little daunted by the idea of adding my voice to this woman’s incredible story. In my work with Fun Fabulous Fierce, we talk a lot about being bad-asses. We talk about speaking our truths and we talk about achieving our goals. In Heather’s story, you find all of those things…only the stakes are much higher.
About 9 years ago, just before Christmas, and just after the birth of her daughter, Heather was diagnosed with the disease. According to what I learned on her website, she got it because her father worked construction and she used to wear her dad’s jacket when she worked or played outside. His coats were covered in asbestos dust from the sites where he worked.
After feeling crummy for several months after her daughter’s birth, the doctors ruled out all of the lesser possibilities and eventually confirmed she had cancer. She was given 15 months to live.
Her research on the disease brought up only frighteningly grim results – 15 months to live was a constant reminder.
Rather than squander her time thinking about dying, she set to work finding a treatment plan. She found a clinical trial in Boston and flew there to undergo a very delicate (read: risky!) surgery, followed by chemotherapy treatments. Because these procedures were in trials at that time, there wasn’t much solid evidence that it would be successful. She forged ahead none the less and her literal “NEVER SAY DIE” attitude sustained her. She fought like a maniac. Her fearless husband encouraged her along the way by reminding her that their newborn Lily needed her mama.
Heather is a survivor today! Isn’t that the best news you’ve ever heard? I think so! I have chills just typing the words.
Heather has taken to the airwaves, the conference circuits and the internet to share her story. She’s made herself a resource to share with other mesothelioma patients her story and her hope. She helps patients connect with the resources they’ll need to get treatments and she advocates for research funding for her disease.
I can’t think of anyone more badass than Heather Von St. James. I’m so proud to have been asked to help spread her message. Now please help me spread it even farther!
SHARE SHARE SHARE so Heather can expand her reach and do even more amazing good.
Oh, and do you want to hear it all for yourself? Check her out at www.mesothelioma.com/heather.