Every year, 2500-3000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed. On average, they are given 10 months to live.
As a blogger, I get lots of emails from people and companies hoping I can share their stories, but the one I received from the Von St. James family stands out. It’s a story of how love, hope and the power of family helped Heather Von St. James beat the odds and beat one of the most aggressive cancers, mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body cavity, and its only known cause is asbestos exposure. It is common for the cancer to lie dormant in the body for as long as 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos, meaning that mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70. But in 2005, at the young age of 36 and just three months after giving birth to her daughter Lily Rose, Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Given just 15 months to live, Heather, with the help of her adoring husband Cameron, embarked upon a search to find the best mesothelioma treatment care available. Because of the rarity of the cancer, says David Rice, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and nationally-known mesothelioma expert, “we don’t have a reliable cure for this disease.” After much research, Heather and Cameron found Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned mesothelioma surgeon at the Boston based Brigham and Women’s hospital.
It was Dr. Sugarbaker’s extrapleural pneumonectomy, a surgery which involved the complete removal of Heather’s left lung, that saved Heather’s life. Today, Heather is an eight-year mesothelioma cancer survivor, and she has made it her personal mission to help other victims of this brutal cancer. “I share my personal story to help spread hope and awareness for others going through this, in hopes that one day no one else will have to,” says Heather.
Today, in honor of the 10th Annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day, I share Heather’s story in the hope that one day mesothelioma and cancers of all kind will be eradicated. Sometimes as family, friends, or observers of people living with cancer, we can feel helpless and like we can’t make a difference. But half the battle is positive thinking and a strong support system, and raising awareness is a big part of that. Today, please join me in spreading hope – be a voice for the victims and donate your social support by sharing Heather’s story on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest with the hashtag #MesoAwarenessDay. For more information about mesothelioma and how you can help raise awareness, visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.