I fell in love with Heather’s story and agreed to share her post. Her button is in my side bar and I encourage you to read the various blog accounts of her journey. It will touch your heart without a doubt!
As an expectant mother excited to begin my parenting journey, I did everything I could to prepare for motherhood. I ate nutritious foods for my own health and for the health of my unborn child. I never missed an appointment with my doctor. I read every book I could get my hands on to prepare myself for anything that motherhood might throw at me. While my efforts helped me prepare to become a mother, nothing could have prepared me for what happened when my daughter, Lily, was just three months old.
As a young mother to a brand new baby girl, a woman in the prime of her life, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The news came as a shock. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung. At the happiest time of my life, I found myself facing surgery in a city 1200 miles from home, chemotherapy and radiation.
Since no parenting books could tell me how to raise my baby girl while battling cancer, I had to rely on my instincts. Knowing that Lily would need consistent, loving care during both my treatment in a distant city and my recovery, I turned to the loving, supportive people in my life who could help me give Lily what she deserved.
I spent the entire first year of my daughter’s life undergoing treatment. My parents took Lily to live with them while I went through the surgery. During my recovery from surgery and subsequent treatment, I relied on loved ones to help care for Lily when I could not. Through it all, I did my best to make life as normal as possible for her. When I felt well, we had play dates, went to the park, and played outside. We spent much of our time, however, simply enjoying each other’s company in the comfort of our living room. Our time together was precious. I wanted Lily to understand that no matter how sick I was, she would always be the most important thing in the world to me.
As a mom, I wanted to do everything for my child. As a cancer patient, I needed to take care of myself first so that I could recover to watch Lily grow up. Finding a balance between my instincts as a mother and my needs as a patient was difficult. I’m grateful for my loving husband, who stood by my side and stepped in to care for Lily when I could not.
Six years later, my husband and I still support each other in parenting as we did during the first year of Lily’s life. We have chosen to be open with Lily about my cancer, talking to her about it without hiding anything. My cancer is as much a part of Lily’s history as it is a part of ours. Our struggles during her first year of life helped shape who she is today: a bright, happy first grader. Cancer brought a lot of good along with the bad. We choose to focus on the gifts.
Heather Von St James is a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.