It’s not everyday you get to chat to someone who beat death. Heather contacted me couple months back and asked if I would be interested in sharing her personal story. I just couldn’t refuse because it hit home. Family members on my mom side died from cancer many years back and I knew this would be a story that would inspire many.
Heather is a 9 year cancer survivor who was given a death sentence almost 10 years ago when she was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just 3 months after having a baby. Her cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos fibers which was on her dad’s construction work jacket. She underwent treatment that involved the removal of her left lung, which ended up saving her life.
She has now dedicated her life to spread awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos.
1. Could you give a brief introduction of yourself and your family?
My name is Heather Von St. James, I’m a 46-year-old mom to Lily, who is almost 10 and wife to Cameron. We’ve been married a little over 16 years. I’m a blogger and patient advocate, I also am a public speaker and a mesothelioma survivor.
2. Can you describe your experience with mesothelioma?
It was terrifying at first. So many unknowns and the treatment for it is so invasive. Even then, the most that the doctors hoped for quality life extension. The actual treatment phase lasted about a year, from major surgery to remove my left lung and all the surrounding tissue, to chemotherapy and radiation after. During this time, I was trying to raise and care for my infant daughter. She turned 1 between the time I finished chemotherapy and was about to start radiation. It was a very lonely and isolating experience.
With my age, I didn’t know many other young cancer patients, let alone mesothelioma patients, so no one knew what I was experiencing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but as the years have gone on, I’ve turned it into something positive. I have found that there is tremendous power in sharing one’s story, and inspiring people is something that comes natural to me.