Hope you are all having a good week and getting ready for the weekend. I am so happy to have Heather as a guest blogger today. She has a pretty terrific story to tell all of you and I think she’s a ROCKSTAR. Enjoy her story…
Cancer or Not: Being a New Mother
At a certain point in life, you truly feel that you have made it to adulthood. For me, I was married, working full time and looking forward to raising my first child. It was this year that I also went through something that I hope no one has to experience. In November 2005, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. It was also just three months after the birth of my first and only child. Lily was a blessing even when I didn’t realize how much I needed it. She was the ultimate happiness for my husband Cameron and I. That must be why it was so shocking to be diagnosed with cancer just three months later.
I started to experience strange symptoms of exhaustion after bringing Lily home. I wanted to go back to work full time. I wanted to take care of my new baby. However, I simply didn’t have the energy. I was exhausted no matter what I did or how I started my day. I couldn’t bring myself to do the most basic of tasks some days. While some people could attribute that to the demands of a new baby, I was also losing more weight than usual, about five to seven pounds a week. It was time to go back to the doctor and figure out what was wrong.
For three months, I took multiple tests, and just three days before Thanksgiving, I went back to the doctor with my husband Cameron to hear the news of what was ailing me. Never did I imagine that the doctor would say, you have malignant pleural mesothelioma and only 15 months to live without treatment. The news shocked me to the very core. I realized my mortality. I realized the length of time in my life that I had left. I realized that I was losing time with my daughter even by being at the doctor. Needless to say, I didn’t have the best reaction to the news. In fact, I broke down. If it wasn’t for Cameron being there, I don’t think that I would have started treatment as quickly as I did, which may have been the very thing to save me. Cameron was so wonderful. He listened to the treatment options and while I remained in shock, he made the decision that I would see a mesothelioma specialist in Boston.
The doctor that I would came to know as my lifesaver had a mesothelioma program with a high success rate. It was far away from Minnesota, but it was also one of the only treatment programs that had helped many other people in my situation. My treatment was going to start with a major surgery. I had to have an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which would remove one of my lungs, parts of my chest lining, parts of my heart lining and diaphragm. I would spend another two weeks after in the hospital to recover and after another two months of recovery I began chemotherapy and radiation treatment. No time could be wasted. During this time, it became incredibly difficult to see Lily. It was heartbreaking. I was missing so much of her life, but I kept the hope alive that when I got through this, we were going to be a stronger family and I would make many more memories with my precious daughter and wonderful husband.
There were many people who started to hear of my cancer story. My parents were instrumental in helping us at first. They provided a place for Lily when I was in treatment in Boston and Cameron continued working full time. In addition to their help, friends, family, co-workers and even strangers wanted to be there for my family. They provided a kind word, flowers, advice, and similar experiences. These were the people who also helped bring light into my life and taught me lessons about the goodness in others. I truly didn’t know that I had such a big family when I started this journey, but they were some of the most amazing people to meet as I went through days of physical and mental challenges with cancer treatment.
Cancer is unlike anything that a human being can experience. My particular cancer kills about 95 percent of the people diagnosed. Thankfully, I beat mesothelioma, and seven years later, I am cancer-free and enjoying life with my healthy, beautiful family. Lily has an amazing spirit and never hesitates to tell others how she saved my life. I can’t help but to agree. Without her existing in my life to give me strength through those dark times, I don’t know what else I could have had that was as strong as that notion to be the best mother I could be, whether I had cancer or not.