I received a comment from a woman by the name of Heather and I was moved by her story of overcoming a terrifying cancer diagnosis while raising her young daughter. As a mother myself, I can only imagine how a diagnosis like that would be both completely crushing and completely infuriating. As a survivor, she’s raising awareness for mesothelioma and I am more than happy to have a guest post from her here. Go Heather, go!
It was on November 21, 2005 when I received the startling news that I had become ill with malignant pleural mesothelioma. I literally felt like my world was crashing down all around me. Here I was, a mother with a 3 ½-month-old child, wondering if I’d live long enough to see her first birthday.
I was facing my greatest fear. This was truly a defining moment for me. This is that moment in time where I’d realize just how strong I was, and what I was truly capable of. I had so much to live for …
I was referred to one of the world’s leading mesothelioma physicians, Dr. David Sugarbaker, who had been practicing at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He gave me hope that I could live to raise my daughter. And I needed that, given the grim prospects for mesothelioma patients. I had been researching mesothelioma, and I read that only 2 percent of individuals lived beyond 5 years after being diagnosed. I decided that I could be among that 2 percent. I could beat mesothelioma. I was determined to face any challenges I’d meet along the way in beating the condition head-on. I was in the fight of my life. During that year, I devoted all of my energy toward fighting mesothelioma. As a part of the treatment, I had to have surgery in Boston-1900 miles away from my young child, who was now six months old. The tumor was located around my left lung, and I ended up having it surgically removed.
After surgery, I had to undergo several months of chemo and radiation. For the first year of my daughter’s life, I was sick. My supportive family and friends helped me with her as I received mesothelioma treatment. I’m thankful for my family and friends who were there for me during that tough time. When her first birthday arrived, we celebrated it in a major way. Family and friends came from all over to be a part of this very special celebration. Within one year of being diagnosed with mesothelioma, I had been declared cancer free and completed my final radiation treatment.
I had learned so much from that experience. I’ve learned that you can’t take life for granted. I think that the cancer helped me see life in a new light. I don’t take the small things for granted anymore. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I truly understand what it is to live.
On this special journey, I met some amazing people who were also battling this cancer. And although many of those people didn’t make it through, they hold a special place in my heart, for they were a source of inspiration for me. It is in memory of those people that I’ve decided to help raise awareness for mesothelioma. It is my hope that I can help shed light on the condition and help the public put a face to the disease.
I will continue to live my life to the fullest, enjoying every little moment along the way. And even on the bad days, I’m reminded of what all I have to be grateful for. To me, that is truly what life is about.