According to the W.H.O, the most common types of cancer affecting women are breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical. However, cancer can affect any part of the body.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, affecting the mesothelium (the protective lining covering most of the internal organs in the body). It most commonly occurs in the lungs but may also affect organs in the abdomen, heart and testis. The mesothelial lining in the lungs is called pleura.
Last week, I got an email from Heather James, a mesothelioma survivor, who wanted to do a guest post on my blog. I was a bit hesitant about posting it here because this blog is basically about fashion, hair, weigh loss, skin & beauty. However, most of my readers are women and I felt her story would inspire someone. This is Heather’s story:
When you have a baby, many times you hear the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Over the years, I have come to realize how true that really is. My story brings home the point that parenting is not meant to be done in a vacuum. Everyone talks about being“strong, independent women,” but sometimes, being strong and independent means realizing when you have to call in help, that you can’t always be everything and do everything for your child. I never thought I would have to lean so heavily on those around me. But I am ever thankful that through my struggles, I had that village surrounding me, embracing me and my child, and doing for her what I could not do myself.
I’ve always been a strong and independent woman. Before my baby was born, I was a part owner of a large, successful salon company and personally ran one of the three salons in the business. In addition to working behind a chair myself, I managed over twenty employees. I was healthy, energetic, and active.
This was my life, up until the day I gave birth to my baby girl, Lily. She was born August 4, 2005. Since my pregnancy was so uneventful, I expected to pop back into my old routine without a problem. I returned to work a few weeks after Lily’s birth.
However, within a month of my return, I was constantly tired and breathless,and began losing weight. I figured this was normal, since most new mothers feel exhausted and lose weight. But soon my weight loss reached an extreme level. I was losing an astonishing five to seven pounds a week.
After some medical tests, I learned that I had fluid around my lung. After more tests, to my utter and complete shock, I was diagnosed with a cancer called mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure in my childhood. This diagnosis came November 21, 2005 when my daughter was only three and a half months old.
My first thought was for my daughter. Would she miss out on having a mother? Would my husband have to raise her without me? Would there always be a big hole in her life where I used to be? I knew then that I was going to have to do whatever was necessary to beat this diagnosis.
I flew to Boston where I had an extrapleural pneumenectomy, a surgery thatr emoved my left lung, all the surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, diaphragm on the left side, the lining of my heart and one of my ribs. I also had a heated chemotherapy wash to further eradicate any cancer. Two and a half months after my surgery, I began chemotherapy and radiation.
During those early months of my baby’s life, I began to see the blessing of the“village.” My parents in their South Dakota home cared for my daughter while I was fighting cancer across the country. People I had known as a teen offered their support and time to assist my mom and dad who were juggling their jobs and “parenting” their brand new granddaughter. The “village” loved me from afar by feeding my baby and loving her while I was in distant Boston struggling for my life. My only glimpses of how she was growing and changing were grainy pictures e-mailed from my mom to us while we were at the hospital. Missing my daughter was heart wrenching. But I knew that she was in the best hands possible.
Those difficult days changed our whole family. My health keeps me from going back to work, but that is okay. It’s really not that important to me anymore.What is important is family, love, generosity, kindness, and the one constant in it that makes it all work: our faith. Through those hard times we never lost our faith in God and always believed that everything would work out for the best.
Looking back, I can see that my struggle boiled down our lives to the essentials.Because of my struggle, I am raising Lily to value those essentials, and she is growing up to be a valuable part of that “village.” Despite the struggle that cancer has brought to my life, I am thankful, for even through my illness, I have found blessings, love, and perspective.