Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beating Mesothelioma With My Courage Intact

Last week I got an e-mail from Heather telling me her story, and asking whether she could share her experience with my readers. I'm honored that she would even ask, and happy to share her brave story with all of you. 


I was only 36 when I had my first and only child, and I was only 36 when I realized that I had cancer. Both revelations changed my world, and they both continue to teach me things every day. When I had my daughter, I was thrown into a whirlwind of joy and good wishes. Everything was wonderful, and I had no idea what would happen next.

When Lily was less than four months old, I got the news. On November 21, 2005 I was told that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer that was caused by asbestos exposure and which was attacking my lungs. I had been accidentally exposed as a child, and now, three decades later and only 3 ½ months into being a mom, it had decided to attack me.

All I could think about was my baby and my husband. As the doctor talked, I realized that if I did nothing, I would only have 15 months left to spend with the two most important people in my life. I couldn’t take the idea of leaving them alone, and both my husband and I decided to do whatever it took to help me live.

With such a dire prognosis, we decided to go after the most drastic treatment plan possible. We ended up flying out to Boston to speak with one of the best doctors in the world for this particular cancer, and on February 2, 2006, I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy, where my left lung was removed. After spending an impatient 18 days of rest in the hospital and another 2 full months of recovery, I was ready for chemotherapy and radiation.


This wasn’t easy on me at all. My parents stepped right up to take care of Lily, and they made the transition from being doting grandparents, to her fulltime caretakers. Fortunately, it seemed that everyone in their town helped them out at one point or another.

While I was not watching my baby girl learn to eat food and move around in person, that doesn’t mean I was entirely out of the loop. My mom took pictures and emailed them to us, and my husband printed them off for me. These pictures are truly what kept me fighting.

Whether you are healthy or coming to a show-stopping realization of your own, I suggest that you run towards life, not away. Even with the bad things that happened, I have been exposed to a great deal of good along the way.

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