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Guest Post: Finding Joy in My Mesothelioma Journey

Finding Joy in My Mesothelioma Journey

Heather Lily 1.jpeg
I gave birth to my lovely daughter Lily on August 4, 2005. As a new mom, I immediately realized that I would not be able to do everything on my own. Fortunately, I had a wonderful support system that surrounded my husband, our baby girl and me. Both sides of our family were thrilled with the birth, and we also had a great network of close friends. I enjoyed pregnancy and the birth experience, and I had no idea of how my life was going to drastically change.


After spending some time with my daughter at home after she was born, I went back to work. I started to notice that I was feeling terrible. I had no energy, it was difficult to breathe and I found it difficult to complete my daily tasks. Something told me that this was more than just fatigue from being a new mom, so I made a doctor’s appointment. After a series of tests, I received a shocking diagnosis.

On November 21, 2005, my doctor walked in the room and told me that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is often caused by exposure to asbestos. Upon further investigation, I found out that I had been unknowingly exposed to asbestos at a young age. Now, 30 years later, this exposure had turned into a deadly form of cancer.

My doctor was very honest with me, and I discovered I was only expected to live 15 months without treatment. Lily was only three and a half months old, and I could not imagine her and my husband living without me. Deciding to go with a drastic treatment method was an easy decision for me because I knew I would do anything for my baby girl.

I knew I needed the best professional treatment to get better, so my husband and I went to Boston to work with a prominent mesothelioma doctor. There was no way I could take care of my baby while undergoing treatment, so I had to make a heartbreaking decision. I said goodbye to my baby, and Lily went to live temporarily with my parents in South Dakota.

On February 2, I underwent a surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy. This is an extreme procedure that involved the removal of my left lung and additional tissue. I was in the hospital for another two and a half weeks, and eventually had rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation.

I do not think there is any way I would have survived this trial without the support of my loved ones. I will never be able to thank my parents enough for lovingly caring for Lily during my recovery. In South Dakota, other family members and friends also chipped in to watch her when my parents had to work. My husband stayed by my side and supported me every step of the way.

No one wishes for a cancer diagnosis, but hard times in life make you realize how much you have to be thankful for.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out more of her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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  1. Thank you for sharing your journey with us Heather. 🙂