Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mesothelioma~A Young Mother's Fight

I was recently contacted by Heather Von St. James, and was honored and humbled that she asked if I would be willing to write a post about her...but more importantly about Mesothelioma awareness.  How could I not.  She is a mother like me, has a beautiful daughter Lily Rose, and is a very courageous cancer survivor.  What she did not know is that my father-in-law worked in an environment full of asbestos, as a plumber in a northern school system and that my husband attended those very schools as well.  My father-in-law lived to be 93, and my husband is 56...I pray his good health continues.

Heather Von St James

A bit about Heather, and how she came to have Mesothelioma.  Heather had just given birth 3 1/2 months prior to sweet Lily Rose, when her doctors broke the news.  Three words no one ever wants to hear..."You have cancer" or more specifically, " You have malignant pleural mesothelioma".  A cancer caused primarily by asbestos exposure.  Something at the time I am sure not many had even heard about!  Heather was just 36.

Heather and her beautiful daughter, Lily Rose

Mesothelioma generally tends to be diagnosed in older men..  Why?  They generally are the ones working in fields where they might be exposed to asbestos, plumbing or heating (like my father-in-law), electricians, mechanics and sometimes military personnel who have worked on board ships.  Many wives of the very same men, also became sick.  Why?  They were the ones handling their husbands laundry...shaking out the dust before putting the clothes in the wash (we have all done this, just not with asbestos), their clothes were caked in asbestos dust from their days work.  And, many women who had worked in schools that had asbestos also became ill.  As I mentioned, my father-in-law worked in such a school and my husband recalls seeing it as well.

Now I am sure you are wondering how Jennifer came into contact with asbestos.  The answer is that her father worked in construction, mainly drywall work.  The dust was on his clothing.  The very clothing he wore from the site he was working on back into his own home.  White dust, innocent enough, right?  Very wrong!  He was unknowingly exposing his family, his young daughter, to asbestos.

Heather was one of the earlier diagnosed patients with mesothelioma, a new and very scary cancer trend.  These were young people and young adults who had been exposed as children.  Some  exposed by coming in contact with dust on their parents clothing from their work site like Heather, some exposed because they came in contact with asbestos tiles found in older schools, some in insulation found in attics of the family home.  Innocent, unknowing children.  Some just wanted to hug their daddy after a long day at work.  Heartbreaking.  They had no clue.

Heather has since become very involved in the research and awareness of this form of cancer.  Many of those she comes in contact with in the mesothelioma community are just in their 20s-30s, their whole life ahead of them, but right now they are trying to survive this form of cancer instead.

The good news...many advances have been made in the treatment of this disease, and more people are surviving.  I truly believe this is due to courageous people like Heather, who have spear headed a movement for more research and through people like me are spreading awareness to others.

I would encourage all of you to visit www.mesothelioma.com to learn more, and to read more about Heather.

Heather, thank you for reaching out to me.  You will continue to be in my prayers, and I thank you for your dedication to this disease.


Freckles Chick said...

They are a beautiful pair. Heather is a beacon of strength. I've heard about about mesothelioma but quite honestly didn't know much about it. Grateful for the info. Prayers to Heather on her journey.

Thank you for sharing, Lauren!


Katie Clooney said...

Beautifully written Lauren. Did not know this much about this awful disease. Such a beautiful young woman and her daughter, as well. I will keep them both in my prayers.

Anne said...

Will keep Heather in my thoughts and prayers! Lovely written post Lauren:)

Karena Albert said...

Lauren, what a special story on brave Heather and the plight of so many. I will keep her and the others in my thoughts and prayers.

The Arts by Karena

Ron said...

Prayers her way! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story! xo

Jamie said...

I hate cancer.

Linda P said...

What a great post about Heather. I wish great success. Cancer is so deadly and I only wish there is a cure soon. So many people are suffering. Prayers and healing thoughts are being sent her way.
Thank you for writing such a touching post. xo

Mike @TheIronYou said...

What a great read Lauran, super informative and inspiring. Thank you for this.