Guest Blogger mesothelioma

Guest Post: Surviving Mesothelioma

Today’s guest post was written by Heather Von St. James. Heather is a mesothelioma survivor, mother, wife and blogger. You can find Heather blogging at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

“You have a tumor.” Dr. Flink’s voice reflected the fact that this was not an ordinary diagnosis. Whatever I had was very bad-I could tell by the way he looked at me. My new daughter, Lily, consumed my thoughts while I was trying to grasp the gravity of my diagnosis.

My diagnosis was mesothelioma, a cancerous mass that grows in the lung’s linings. Those who have mesothelioma are often veterans, or elderly’s in the last stages of life when they get their diagnoses. I was 36, a new mother, and now I also had a potentially incurable cancer.

Dr. Flink gave me three levels of best-case scenarios for my future. The first was to avoid treatment and live about 15 months. I didn’t want this option. The second option was to get treatment at the University of Minnesota or perhaps the Mayo Clinic. I could expect to live possibly five years receiving chemotherapy and radiation at one of these facilities. My last option was to see Dr. David Sugarbaker at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. If I was a candidate for surgery, I could live for ten years or more. My husband didn’t hesitate, saying, “Get us to Boston.”

The surgery offers mesothelioma patients their best chance at survival. It is an aggressive and risky procedure known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The surgery removes the whole affected lung, part of the diaphragm and the membrane lining of the lungs and heart in addition to removing the tumor. I was a good candidate for a successful surgery given my age and generally good health.

On February 2, 2006, I underwent surgery, and it went well. I was released after 18 days in the hospital. I received five months of adjuvant chemotherapy afterward. This involved four chemotherapy sessions and 30 radiation sessions.  Groundhog Day is known in our house as “LungLeavingDay.” I am cancer free almost six years later, and we still remember this day in our family by writing down what we fear on dinner plates and celebrating as we toss them into a bonfire. Cancer taught me to appreciate the things that really matter in life. To me, those things are family, faith, and humor.

I share my story as a means of hope and inspiration for others.  As a survivor, it is my duty to turn my pain into purpose and be someone that others can look to in situations like my own.  I want my story to help others overcome their fears when faced with any diagnosis, and to realize that giving up is simply not an option.

Read more at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

6 comments on “Guest Post: Surviving Mesothelioma

  1. Pingback: Story of Survival « communicating.across.boundaries

  2. Pingback: New research on mesothelioma prognosis | A mesothelioma journal

  3. Pingback: Macmillan's Online Community

  4. Johnathan Mercer

    Thanks for this article. It is a very moving story. I have a friend whose father used to work in a mill and was around a lot of asbestos. We have been looking into resources about mesothelioma for his health. This article, here, was a great help to us as well. I hope this can help others out as well.


  5. Oh my, how touching! Wow Jonathon I was reading that site and saw that they found asbestos in children’s school science kits. Its bad enough we still import the toxic chemical, let alone expose the youth to it! What’s wrong with us?!

  6. Cancer apparently thrives in an acid environment and so it’s best to prevent too a lot meat. Some animals are fed growth hormones and antibiotics, and may also have parasites, which are harmful and particularly to people already struggling with cancer. Meat protein is also harder to digest and also the undigested meat remaining within the intestines becomes putrefied, top to much more toxic build-up. Fish along with a little chicken are believed to be the very best recommendation.In addition to meat products, study suggests that the following are also foods to be avoided: starchy, fried foods like chips and fries (these contain the chemical, acryl amide – a probable carcinogen); smoked and pickled foods; grapefruit and trans fats; sodas; refined sugar and artificial sweeteners; and milk.

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