This is the story of Heather von St James; a mother, a warrior, a survivor. This is her experience. These are her words. I am in awe. You can read more about Heather on her blog http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather
Seeing the Best in Life
It is funny how events in life can really bring home the meaning of a phrase. Such is the case for me with the saying, "It takes a village." The phrase is typically followed by, "to raise a child", but it can have many meanings. For me, it means that sometimes it takes a village to care for a child when it's parents are in need.
My first and only child, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005. The pregnancy went relatively well and she was born healthy. I was seemingly healthy too. Our families and friends arrived and immediately surrounded us with their love. Things were great until Lily was a little over three months old. I was feeling run down. I was constantly tired and breathless. I knew this was something new mothers experienced, but I just had a feeling it was something different. I went to my doctor who, after a myriad of tests, told me i had malignant pleural mesothelioma and 15 months to live, if I did not get treatment.
All I could think of was Lily and my husband. My beautiful baby without a mom and my husband struggling to raise her alone. The treatment options for mesothelioma are grueling and harsh, but I knew I needed to do it. So, I decided to undergo the most drastic one that I had--surgery to remove my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue, chemotherapy and radiation. I was not going to be able to fulfill my duties as a new mother while all of this was going on. It turned out, that would not be a problem. My family, friends and their friends built up a village around Lily. That is when the phrase "It takes a village" hit home for me.
My husband and I went to Boston so I could get treatment and surgery while our darling daughter stayed with my parents in my childhood home of South Dakota. Not only were they helping Lily, and us, but others were helping them as well. It was amazing to see so many people there in our time of need. Lily was in South Dakota learning, growing and being loved. I was in Boston, getting pictures, making friends who were struggling like myself and reminding myself that all of the struggles were for Lily. She was in a good place and I was making sure I would live to see her grow up.
Now that my surgery, recovery and subsequent months of dufficult treatment are over and many years have passed since those awful times, I can really appreciate Lily's village and enjoy life. We know that our lives are fragile and we want to make sure we make the most of every precious second.
No matter what life throws at you, take it and run with it. Even clouds can have silver linings. Cancer is odd like that. We were hit with just about the worst news we could have got in that period of our lives. However,a lot of good came out of it and I am happy for that. I have made new friends, solidified relationships, really seen the best in people I love, and most of all, I have Lily.