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Friday, July 12, 2013

My Daughter Saved My Life - Guest Post

When Heather Von St. James contacted me about this guest post, I was blown away by her story of strength. I think you will be, too. It's more than important to get the word out and raise awareness about the different types of cancer out there and their treatments -- it's, in fact, essential. And while there are many heartbreaking stories, there are also those that have a happy ending, like this one. Thank you, Heather.


Every time someone asks my seven-year-old daughter about my cancer, she always replies, “I saved my mommy’s life.” That has become an automatic response for Lily. Some people may not understand how much truth is behind what my daughter is saying or take what she says seriously. However, I will be the first one to explain to anyone just how right Lily is.

My husband Cameron and I were married for seven years before we thought about having children.  I was 35, and I was a little nervous about having complications during my pregnancy because of my age. I did not know how long it would take for me to get pregnant, but three months after we decided to have children, I was pregnant. I was shocked, nervous and excited all at the same time.

During my pregnancy, I would constantly rub my belly and get excited knowing that a little baby was growing inside of me. I also had a thousand questions run through my mind. What type of mother would I be? Would I be a fun mom? A cool mom? A strict mom? I knew that being a good mom was more important to me than anything else.

I had a very smooth pregnancy, but the road got bumpier when it was time for me to deliver. I found out that Lily was breech, so I had to have an emergency C-section. I remember I jokingly said, “At least she will have a round head.” I am the type of person who always tries to look on the bright side of things. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I first held her. I knew that I wanted to do everything that I could to provide her with happiness, love, and protection. Nothing mattered anymore after I held her in my arms. My entire life was about her. Everything was going so wonderfully that I never could have imagined that things were going to take a turn for the worse.

Three and a half months after I had my daughter, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. My doctor told me that if I did not receive treatment, then I would only have 15 months to live. I was shocked, and I could not imagine leaving Lily and Cameron in this world without me.  Cameron listened to the doctor’s treatment options and decided that it was best for me to get the most drastic form of treatment. We would have to go to Boston and meet with one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the world. I also had to undergo an extreme procedure that removed my entire left lung as well as the lining of my diaphragm and heart.

I spent 18 days in the hospital and two weeks in an outpatient facility in Boston. I then spent two months at my parents' house recovering. My parents were taking care of Lily the entire time. Then, I returned home to Minnesota for chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Like any other mother would, I made sacrifices so that I could be there for my daughter. In this case, I had to sacrifice being there for my baby’s sixth month of life. Being away from my baby for an entire month was the hardest thing that I had ever experienced. However, I knew that my little girl needed her mommy to live, and that gave me the courage to face surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Mesothelioma cancer kills 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed. I realized that motherhood was what gave me the strength to keep going. Knowing that my baby needed me throughout her life, helped get through each day. Therefore, Lily could not be more right when she tells people, “I saved my mommy’s life.”


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