Dear GutsIsKey Reader; If you have followed my BEAMS for very long, you know I am all about GUTS. Modeling Courage myself, teaching others about courage and honoring and highlighting people that demonstrate great examples of courage in their lives. This BEAM is all about helping someone with true courage, as she reaches out to help others. Read the following and you will see what I mean.
On October 24th, I received the following paraphrased letter, from Heather Von St. James.
The reason I have reached out to you is because of your blog! I am 43 and a mother to a wonderful, little 7 year old, Lily. She is my only child, and greatly important to me. When Lily was just 3 1/2 months old, I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. In case you are not familiar with this word. It is a type of cancer that kills 90-95% of those who have it. Because of this, the first thing that came to mind when I got this diagnosis was my baby girl. It distressed me greatly that I was not going to be able to watch her grow up.
Since I am writing you, it is obvious that I am not one of the 90-95% and that I am getting to enjoy my little girl today.. After intense treatment and recovery, I’m still here almost 7 years later and cancer free! My journey with cancer was a terrifying one and I’d like to turn my pain into purpose. The way that I can do this is by becoming someone, other people can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in similar situations.
Tim, I feel that your blog would be an excellent place for me to share my story. I’m trying to raise awareness of this horrible little known cancer that is such a deadly killer. I also want to get the word out that it is 100% preventable. Would you accept a guest post from me about my journey as a new mother with cancer and the dangers of asbestos?”
My whole-hearted answer to Heather is YES. Please read her compelling story below and perhaps help save the life of someone, you know & love…………….
Only 36 and Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
I was given the heart-wrenching message, “You have cancer,” when life should have been at its best. I had delivered my baby only three and a half months earlier. I was not only being diagnosed with cancer, but with a very aggressive form called malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is usually caused by exposure to asbestos.
When I tell people I have this form of mesothelioma, they’re always shocked. After all, isn’t asbestos banned? Then they ask me when I was exposed. First, I tell them that no, asbestos isn’t banned. The answer to the next question is that I suffered secondary exposure to asbestos on my father’s work clothes. He was a construction worker who worked with drywall, and his work clothes accumulated quite a bit of harmless-looking white dust that turned out to contain asbestos fibers.
I was only 36 when they diagnosed me with mesothelioma, and the Mayo Clinic had only ever heard of one other person being diagnosed at such a young age. Mesothelioma patients have stereotypically been older males who have worked in the trades or served in the military, but doctors have increasingly seen the wives of these men getting sick. Many of these women had handled their husbands’ dirty laundry that was caked with asbestos. Other women had worked in asbestos-filled school buildings. These stories have marked the beginning of the newer generation of mesothelioma patients.
Younger adults and even some children have increasingly been showing up in doctors’ offices suffering from mesothelioma. Many children lived or attended school in buildings where the vermiculite insulation contained asbestos or asbestos tiles were breaking down. Girls who loved their daddies would jump into their arms and hug them after they returned home after a hard day’s construction work. They didn’t know that when they wore their daddies’ jackets to go outside and get firewood, they were exposed to asbestos from piping insulation at a work site.
As I’ve spent more time around the mesothelioma community, I’ve seen more and more patients in their late 20s and early 30s, both men and women. Many people just beginning their married lives, with babies and careers, have seen their world being brought to a standstill by a pressing focus on mesothelioma.
Fortunately, the medical community has made many advances in mesothelioma treatment in recent years. People of all ages are increasingly surviving the disease. It’s true that being diagnosed with cancer is terrifying, but many others and I still hold onto hope. As a community, we come together to support each other, share our experiences, cry when treatment isn’t going well and celebrate the battles won.
Some people wonder why I speak out about mesothelioma and share my own story publicly. The reason is that I’m working to increase awareness of mesothelioma and the people stricken by it. Awareness is the only thing that can change things for those who are affected by this disease. If I can bring hope to the newly diagnosed or take some fear away from somebody who’s currently living with mesothelioma, and given them hope, then I’ve accomplished my mission.