Dealing with Cancer: New Motherhood and Survival

Note to Readers:  Last April 10, I received an email from Heather. She’s a survivor from a rare type of cancer called Mesothelioma. She asked if she could in any way spread the word about this disease through my blog. Like you, this is the first time I’ve heard about this disease. And it was scary from her experience to even imagine possibly leaving behind a daughter or a son while they are so young.

Without looking at how many readers I’ve got, she only considered reaching out to fellow mothers. I hope this reaches many women despite my humble blog. I’m encouraging everyone to share/repost.

And to Heather whose courage I admire, it took me a while (my apologies). But as they said, better late than never!


About eight years ago, I was faced with something that no one expects in their lifetime. Even worse, it was devastating to the euphoria that I had been blessed with just months before when I gave birth to my first child, Lily. Lily was such a beautiful addition to our lives that I still find myself in disbelief over the next series of events.

Heather and Lily

Mesothelioma Cancer Survivor Heather Von St. James with child Lily. Heather was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago. She has been an advocate of the disease ever since.

I just wanted to get back into the swing of things after Lily was born. I started working again full-time. My husband also worked full-time. We were going to provide a beautiful life for Lily and we were preparing for her first Christmas just a few months in the future. It turned into such a difficult time. I began feeling exhausted, too tired to move or go to work, and I was losing weight at about five to seven pounds a week. Something was definitely wrong.

My doctor ran tests to figure out what was going on, but in the mean time, I went on being a mother. The results came back, just a few days before Thanksgiving. There I was, ready to hear about a simple deficiency or little problem that had an easy solution, when instead, the doctor told me that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure. I was unknowingly exposed to asbestos as a child. It utterly shocked me to my core, and yet I was left to make a decision. Without treatment, I would only live another 15 months. I had to do something.

We decided that I should see a specialist in Boston. He had helped many patients with mesothelioma already. On February 2, 2006 I had a surgery known as extrapleural pneumonectomy, which removed my left lung, parts of my chest and heart lining along with parts of my diaphragm. I spent 18 days in the hospital and after another 2 months of recovery I began chemotherapy and radiation treatments. All the while, I was still trying to be the best mom and wife I could be considering everything. It was truly one of the most difficult times of my life.

I’ll never forget the way that my family and friends came through to help in this time of need. My parents provided care for Lily at their home in South Dakota while I was in the hospital, as well as a place for me to stay while I was recovering from surgery. I will never forget the way that we were blessed with so much help from our loved ones. I am truly grateful for their support.

Being faced with such a difficult situation, quickly puts things into perspective. Having gone through such a hard time made me truly realize and appreciate what is most important in my life, my family. Being able to use my experience and everything that I’ve overcome in order to help others is very special to me. My battle with cancer shaped who I am today and has allowed me to spreading awareness and keep up hope for this terrible disease.

Heather and Family

Heather and Family


To learn more about Mesothelioma, visit this link and know more about Heather’s and other cancer patients‘ inspiring experience against this disease.

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