Heather’s story

today’s blog is a guest post from Heather, who found me online and contacted me to share her story. she is strong and courageous, and her story is an inspirational one. i feel honored to be able to share it with you today. she is a reminder that even in the midst of pain and suffering, there is beauty and light to be found.

Finding The Good In A Cancer Diagnosis
Everyone has a time in their life when their world is split into two. During these times things can change quickly and unexpectedly. This happened to me just after I turned 36. I experienced a wide variety of emotions including joy like I had never felt before and extreme sorrow as well. My little bundle of joy, Lily,was born on August 4, 2005. Both my husband and I could not have expected the amount of happiness that we felt at that time. Unfortunately that happiness was short lived.

Four weeks after I had Lily, I went back to working full time. I felt that something was not right. I was always tired, didn’t have energy and was losing around 5 to 7 pounds each week. Even though some of these symptoms could be blamed on being a new mother, I knew deep down that it was something else.

After having a number of tests done, just 3 ½ months after Lily’s birth, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos and affects the lining of the lungs. I was exposed to asbestos when I was a child without ever knowing it. The doctor told me that I would have 15 months to live if I chose not to have any treatment.

I was completely devastated after I heard the news. I kept thinking about Lily and what she and my husband would do if I died. So my husband and I both decided that the best decision for me would be to undergo whichever treatment I could in order to eradicate the cancer. Ultimately I chose the treatment that was the most drastic. I made the trip from Minnesota to Boston, where on February 2, 2006, I underwent a surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. I had one of the best doctors available perform the operation. The procedure removed my left lung along with parts of the chest and heart lining as well as half of my diaphragm. I stayed in the hospital for 18 days and after 2 months of recovery, I started chemotherapy and radiation. Even during this difficult time I tried my best to be a good mother to Lily.

Luckily during the time I was in Boston, Lily stayed with my parents in my childhood home in South Dakota . Both my parents and some of their friends helped care for Lily while I was having treatment. I am forever grateful for the care they gave her during this difficult time. My friends and family are a huge reason why I was able to stay so strong and make it through all of this. Unfortunately, I missed many milestones in Lily’s life while I was having treatment, including eating solid foods and rolling over for the first time. Even though it was hard for me to be away, I knew that she was receiving the best care possible.

As horrible as it was to battle cancer, I do have to recognize the fact that it brought about some good things in my life as well. We all have a new appreciation for life and now recognize how quickly it can be altered or taken from us. The best advice that I can give someone dealing with cancer or another difficult situation is to search for the good that can come out of it.

family - Portland


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