Wednesday, April 4, 2012

{Guest Post} A New Mother's Battle Against Mesothelioma

I am truly touched by Heather's story and honored that she is sharing her story on my blog!


On November 21, 2005, my world came crashing down around me when I was diagnosed with the highly lethal form of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma.  To compound my devastation, my only child was just three and a half months old at the time of my diagnosis. As one of my greatest fears manifested--the fear of facing a life threatening illness--I discovered that I was stronger than I thought I would be.

I was referred to the world's leading mesothelioma physician, Dr. David Sugarbaker, of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. He gave me the hope that I would live to raise my young daughter. The survival statistics of mesothelioma are grim. At the time, I read that a mere 2 percent of patients affected by mesothelioma lived beyond five years after diagnosis. I soon decided that someone had to be included in that 2 percent, and that someone would be me. I was determined to beat the cancer and to overcome all the challenges I was facing with a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Throughout the next year, I spent every ounce of my energy fighting the disease. I had major surgery to remove my left lung and the lining surrounding it where the tumor was located. The surgery took place in Boston, 1900 miles away from my baby girl, who was then six months old and staying with my parents while I fought for my life.

The next few months I endured chemotherapy and radiation treatment, while raising my daughter. I was sick for the entire first year of her life but with the help of devoted friends and family, she was unaware of the difficult circumstances I faced. We had a grand celebration for her first birthday, with friends and family gathering from all over. We not only celebrated my daughter's first birthday, but also the nearing end of my battle with cancer. With only one month shy of the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, I completed my final radiation treatment and vowed to remain cancer-free.

That year spent battling cancer, and the subsequent years after mesothelioma treatment, taught me many things. Because of my cancer, I look at life in a different light and I don't take anything for granted. I delight in the small things like my little girl's laughter, puppy breath, or a rainbow after a rain shower. All of it symbolizes the meaning of life and that it's here to live.

I've met some of the most amazing people on the journey whose names are forever etched in my memory and heart. There were those who fought against mesothelioma but were eventually overcome by the cancer, and others who care for loved-ones battling this devastating disease. Mesothelioma warriors continue to amaze and inspire me with their tenacity and passion. It is for all of them that I want to raise awareness about mesothelioma and its devastating impact. More than just a daytime television commercial, mesothelioma is a real disease affecting real people.

---Thank you so much, Heather, for sharing your story. You are truly an inspiration!

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Angela and a beautiful story Heather! What Heather said about not realizing how strong you are until you face something like cancer is so true. I was diagnosed with oavarian cancer at the age of 13 and had gone through chemo and subsequent surgeries until I was 25. Even though I was so young I always seemed to have a different perspective on life than most people I knew. I was also stronger than most but didn't really know why until I was older. I just turned 50 last November and the day before my birthday I ran the NYC marathon...yes I am stronger than most people because I know first hand how fragile life really is. I ran the marathon aside my best friend who had gone through preventative cancer surgery in 2008 having a double mastectomy. I also had the experience of working in a major cancer hospital for over 6 years...the patients there were different than any place else. They knew patience and understanding and the need to stop and smell the coffee brewing...and to appreciate every moment they have here on this earth. I hope this story reaches the people who really need to read it...it is so powerful and uplifting. God bless you Heather and keep you strong. Your baby girl will benefit from your battle with mesothelioma...she will realize true strength and have an honest love for life because your battle. She will grow up with a real understanding of what our journey here in this life is truly all about.

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  2. Very inspiring! Wishing Heather many, many years of good health!

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