Guest Post by Heather Von St. James

Heather emailed me quite some time ago about posting her story on my blog. Unfortunately, with harvest and my typical 2%ness it has taken some time to be able to get around to it. I am glad she was patient. If you would like more information about her, check out her blog. ~2%

Hope In Spite of Mesothelioma

“You have cancer.”

My life was going great. I had a 3 1/2-month-old baby. Well, my life should have been going great. Then, I heard those three fateful words. I had cancer — malignant pleural mesothelioma, in fact. I was sick from a disease caused by asbestos exposure.

Most people wonder how I got it. They think asbestos was banned. Amazingly, it was not. Then, people wonder how I could have come into contact with such a dangerous material. The answer to that question was at home. My father would go to work and come home with asbestos dust on his clothes. His job doing construction, which consisted of drywall taping, mudding and sanding, was exposing him to it. When the asbestos fibers rained on him, they stuck to his clothes. He came home with a white dust that was on him, his jacket, and his car.

The age at which I was diagnosed and my gender were outside of the norm. Most patients at that time were older men who were trade workers. They were plumbers, HVAC workers, mechanics, electricians, soldiers, and military members or vets. Their wives started getting sick too. They were handling the asbestos-covered laundry. They would shake out the clothes, maybe talking or singing as they did it, and breathe in the fibers as they pushed the clothes into the washer.

I am part of the next generation of mesothelioma sufferers. We are part of a trend of young people being diagnosed with mesothelioma. We are the children of those fathers who worked with asbestos all around them. Daddy’s girls who hugged their fathers in welcome and wore their jackets to do the chores for which our jackets were just too precious. We played with our fathers when they came home from days of working with asbestos.

The longer I am part of the community of mesothelioma patients and loved ones, the more I see these young patients. They are starting new stages in their lives in their early 20’s and 30’s. They are at the age where careers, marriages and children take precedence and they have to take a back seat and lose time because they have to concentrate on beating the disease. Thankfully, advances in treatment are making it more likely that these young people will be able to get back to their lives. More patients of all ages are surviving.

Of course hearing that you have cancer is devastating, but I have hope, and a lot of us do. We come together to support each other — a community of mesothelioma sufferers who share victories and tragedies with each other.

I share my story because I want to bring about awareness of mesothelioma. If I can help someone who has recently been diagnosed or give someone who is losing hope a reason to stop living in fear, I am doing the right thing.

Heather Von St. James

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