Today I have a guest post that I think tells an amazing story and offers some hope for anyone suffering through a diagnosis of any type of cancer during the holidays. While hearing a cancer diagnosis is never easy, having to face it during a time of family and joy, it can be heartbreaking. I can only imagine what this young mother was thinking during the Christmas that she was diagnosed with mesothelioma only months after the birth of her little girl……
Counting My Blessings this Christmas
By: Cameron Von St. James – Husband of Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. James
Each year, I looked forward to the holidays. I looked forward to the memories, and the happiness, and the traditions, and my loved ones all getting together and celebrating our good fortune. That was especially true in 2005 when my wife and I would celebrate our holiday season as a family of three. Our only daughter, Lily, was born in August and we were beyond thrilled. We talked about the things we’d do with her during our first holiday as a family of three. We talked about old traditions we wanted to share with her and new ones we wanted to start.
Three days before Thanksgiving arrived, my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and our whole world changed. Lily was only three and a half months old and everything was changing for us. I no longer felt that I had anything to be thankful for. I was so angry and so sad. I knew Heather’s future didn’t look good and I wasn’t able to enjoy the holidays. While I hoped for the best, all I could see was the worst – me a single father, and Lily growing up without a mother.
We still celebrated the holidays, but it was far from the joyous occasion we had hoped for. To make matters worse, we had to have a conversation that for a long time, I considered one of the worst of my life. Heather’s parents joined us for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, and during our holiday dinner, we discussed our entire financial situation with her parents. We had to figure out what assets we could liquidate, what we could afford, and what her parents could afford to take over for us. We were both employed, but the bills were piling up from her cancer diagnosis and we were struggling in a major way, and soon Heather would not be able to work anymore. I was mortified and embarrassed, and for years I would only ever be able to look back on that conversation with shame. Now, however, I see how mistaken I was to view it that way.
My pride did not allow me to see just how thankful I should have been that time of year. I should have been so happy and so thankful to have a family who was willing to rush to our side and offer to help in any way they could to make our lives easier during this terrible time. They were ready and willing to make incredible sacrifices of their own in order to help us through this difficult time. However, it took me years before I was able to see that. Now I am able to see it and I am so thankful for them. I am also thankful to have my wife and daughter in my life to make memories with. After intensive mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, coupled with the love and support of a wonderful, caring family, Heather beat her cancer and we have celebrated seven Christmases and counting together with Lily. We hope that our story of success can be a source of hope and comfort to all those currently struggling through cancer this holiday season.
Cameron Von St. James
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
It is amazing how being tested with a cancer diagnosis can truly open your eyes to what is important, and what all you have to be thankful for. I posted something similar in my post about understanding what is important in life…..
I am so glad that Heather has been able to enjoy 7 Christmases with her family, and can look forward to many more in her future. She sounds like a very strong woman, and I am glad to hear her story. I hope that it gives everyone some hope for those days when you just feel like giving up.
Thank you for the story Cameron – I am sure your support and love for your wife helped her more than you will ever know.