I was recently contacted by Heather; she is a mother to a quirky little six and a half year old daughter, Lily. When Lily was just under four months old, Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. This type of cancer kills 90-95% of people who have it. Obviously, the diagnosis was life altering for this family, and I can't even begin to comprehend how Heather must have felt about potentially missing her daughter's life. I thought it was important to share their story of hope with you. Here it is.
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is often the best. At least that’s the way it seems now. About 3 1/2 months after what had been the best day of my life – the birth of my beautiful daughter Lily – a nightmare began. It was a real possibility that I wouldn’t be able to live long enough to raise her.
Something was wrong, I had been back to work full time for about a month when I knew something wasn’t quite right. At first, I chalked up my lack of energy to being a new mom. I was out of breath all the time and tired. A trip to the doctor turned into a slew of tests. The diagnosis: malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lung caused primarily from exposure to asbestos. I had been unknowingly exposed to asbestos as a child more than three decades ago. I was given 15 months to live if I did nothing. The thought of not beating this disease, of leaving Lily and my husband alone, was unbearable. I knew I had to do whatever it took to live.
We left Lily with my parents and flew to Boston, where I was treated by one of the best mesothelioma doctors. I underwent an extrapleural pneumenectomy, a surgery to remove my left lung and the surrounding tissue. I had to stay in the hospital for 18 days, and then it took another two months of recovery before I could begin chemotherapy and radiation. Most new moms get the joy of holding and feeding their babies every day and watching them learn new skills. I had to watch these moments unfold through grainy black-and-walk photos, tears streaming down my face and those of the nurses. I reminded myself Lily was in the best of care, with my parents. And it was because of her that I was going through these treatments.
Ironically, many of the people I thought I could count on weren't there for us at all. The true blessing was the unexpected hlep and support we received. The phrase "It Takes a Village: has rung ture for us over and over again. Women who I used to babysit when I was a teenager volunteered to babysit my duaghter so my parents could continue going to work. My parents also received an outpouring of love and support from people at church who I looked up to when I was growing up.
In Boston, my husband and I met amazing people who were going through the same thing. They, too, gave so much of themselves to help us manage day-to-day. I could never thank my parents enough for all they did for us, and that bond they created with Lily will undoubtedly last a lifetime, no matter how far apart they may live.
My family and I embrace life now because we know how fragile it can be. And we will forever be grateful to our “Village,” whose love and support saved us.
Thank God Heather's story has a happy ending. I'm so glad she contacted me and wanted to share it with you. The hope is that her pain can be turned into purpose and help others when faced with trying situations. Behind every difficulty, there's always hope. Keep the faith and keep moving forward; you just never know how your story will end. To read more about Heather's journey, please visit her blog.