We need to remember that by being healthy and happy, we are best able to help those around us.
Recently I found out that my friend (and the mom of my daughter's best friend) was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer. (You can find out more about the different stages of this cancer HERE, and about the survival rates HERE.) FYI: Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. With regular Pap smears, cervical cancer can be prevented in just about all cases.
I was stunned and starting thinking about everything I would miss if I died while my kids were still young. I want to see my kids grow up, and I'm looking forward to being there when they get married and start families of their own. I want to grow old with my husband. Because of my love for my family, I want to take care of myself. I need to schedule my own routine check ups and make sure I keep up to date with that so if anything irregular comes up, it will be detected early.
About this same time, I received an email from Heather.
"I am 44 and a mother to a quirky little 7 year old, Lily. She is my only child, and my whole world. When Lily was just 3 1/2 months old, I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma; a type of cancer that kills 90-95% of those who have it. As I'm sure you can imagine, the first thing that came to mind when I was diagnosed was my baby girl and how I wasn't going to be able to watch her grow up.
After intense treatment and recovery, I'm still here almost 7 years later and cancer free! My journey with cancer was a terrifying one and I'd like to turn my pain into purpose and become someone that other people can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in situations like my own. I contacted you because I feel that your blog would be an excellent place for me to share my story. I realize that you may be thinking my story is not exactly a perfect fit for your blog audience, but I'm trying to raise awareness of this horrible little known cancer that is such a deadly killer (and sadly, 100% preventable)
So today, I'm sharing Heather's story in hopes of raising awareness and encouraging others to take care of yourself so you can be there for your family.
My Baby Saved My Life
My 7-year-old daughter, when asked about my cancer diagnosis, always says, “I saved my mommy’s life.” She says this sweetly but also seriously because she means what she says. Truer words were never spoken. Lily truly did save my life.
Cameron and I were married for seven years before we decided we were ready to start having children. I was 35 years old and a little nervous. But I didn’t have to worry long: Just three months after we started talking about babies, we learned that I was pregnant. I had the same experience all new mothers have. I was excited, nervous, surprised, elated and anxious, all rolled into one non-stop roller coaster of emotion. I was so curious about what kind of mom I would become, and I loved rubbing my tummy and getting to know the baby girl growing in my womb.
My pregnancy was a piece of cake. I didn’t experience sickness or fatigue or discomfort that many new moms complain about. But the delivery was a different story. Lily was breech, and I had to have an emergency C-section. I was a little disappointed, but I joked that she would have a nice, round head. I still remember the incredibly emotional moment of holding her for the first time. She was perfect, and I vowed then that I would always do everything to protect her, keep her safe and make her happy. I gazed at her for hours, filled with a kind of love I’ve never known before or since. It was such an intimate, complete time of my life. I never could have predicted what fate had in store for me.
When Lily was just 3 ½ months old, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, news so shocking I could not comprehend what the doctor was telling me. I immediately thought of Lily and Cameron, especially when my physician told me that if I did not start treatment right away, I would possibly have only 15 months left to live. Cameron quietly listed to the doctor’s advice and without hesitating, we agreed to undergo the most radical treatment available in an effort to save my life. This treatment entailed traveling to Boston where, under the care of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors, I underwent a procedure that included removing my entire left lung and the lining of my heart and diaphragm. Following the extreme surgery, I stayed in the hospital for 18 days and then transferred to an outpatient facility in Boston, where I spent another two weeks recovering. Next, I stayed with my parents, who were caring for Lily at their home in South Dakota, for two months before I was strong enough to return to Minnesota and begin chemotherapy and radiation.
Although the procedure was necessary to improve my grim prognosis, it was difficult to sacrifice time with Lily when she was so tiny. I missed celebrating her sixth month of life. It was terribly depressing to miss this time with Lily, but it was the thought of my beautiful baby girl that made me strong enough to fight this battle for my life and go through such a life-altering procedure and the treatments that followed. Lily needed me to live, and I desperately wanted to be there for her.
Mesothelioma kills almost 95 percent of diagnosed patients. For most, it is the equivalent of a death sentence. But my hope and overwhelming love for Lily kept me going. That’s why Lily means exactly what she says when she tells people, “I saved my mommy’s life.” It’s just the truth.
Heather, Cameron and Lily certainly are blessed. Thanks for sharing your story with us. You are one amazing woman! I hope those of you reading this today will take time to take care of yourself and schedule any check ups you may need. Spending time with family isn't something I want to take for granted.
Thanks for stopping by,