Last week I got an email from a woman. A brave and inspiring woman. A woman that has been through many mountains and valleys in her life. But a woman that has come out on top. After hearing her story she asked if it was something that I would want to share with my readers and my immediate response was yes. Her exact words were, "I'd like to turn my pain into purpose and become someone that other people can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in situations like my own." She's exceptional my friends. So today, I give you Heather. Her words speak for themselves but I encourage you to share her story with friends or family going through mesothelioma. For more information or encouragement on mesothelioma go HERE.
Battling Cancer As a New Mommy
When you're welcoming a child into your life for the first time, that's a major life event and a big change. For me, however, it came bundled with a shattering diagnosis of mesothelioma within just a three and a half month span. It was nothing I could have ever imagined. Still, I am grateful that the two came together because, as my precious little daughter Lily likes to say, she saved my life. It's because of her that I found strength within myself that I never knew I had, allowing me to defeat a disease that has devastated so many people.
I married my husband Cameron seven years before we decided to have children. Once we finally made the decision that we were ready to welcome a baby into our little world, it didn't take me long at all to become pregnant. Not only that, my pregnancy was surprisingly uneventful considering I was in my later thirties. The only issue that arose was during the delivery. Lily was breech and therefore I had an emergency C-section.
Like all new moms, I imagine, I spent a lot of time thinking about the child I would be bringing up and how I would fare as her mother. What would our dynamic be? Would I be able to give her everything she needed? Would I be cool enough or enough of a disciplinarian? All of these questions swirled around in my head throughout my pregnancy, but when I finally was able to see her and hold her for the first time, none of my doubts seemed to matter anymore. I was in the presence of a tiny miracle, and my capacity to love suddenly seemed to expand beyond my wildest imagination. I knew that I still had a lot to learn about being a mom, but I knew with equal certainty that I would do absolutely anything for my daughter.
As it turned out, what I had to do was live for her. Roughly three months after her birth, I heard my diagnosis. I was shocked and numb. I thought of all the milestones I was going to miss out on. I would not be able to be there to dry Lily's tears and celebrate her triumphs. Despair overwhelmed me briefly as Cameron stepped up to the plate and discussed my options with the doctor. It wasn't impossible, but it was imperative that we act immediately. Otherwise, I would have only about 15 months left. Once I could think clearly, I rallied myself and decided that I needed to take every chance that was presented to me, no matter how painful it might be. I had to take my best shot at seeing Lily through her childhood.
The weeks and months that followed were a challenge, especially when I was going through surgery and recuperation in hospitals far from home and had to miss out on a month of Lily's infancy. It seemed an almost unbearable sacrifice, but I thought about what I might gain and soldiered on, bolstered by Cameron's constant presence. I was also helped by the many friends and relatives who offered their support and kindness, particularly in looking after Lily when I could not. My parents also were a huge blessing to me during this time, as they put me up in their home so I would have time to recover from the surgery before my chemotherapy and radiation treatments began. I'm not used to relying on people, and it was unsettling at first, but I learned to accept their help graciously. I don't know where I would be without them.
Getting through this incredibly dangerous form of cancer was no easy task, and there were times when I wanted to give up. However, whenever I thought about Lily, I just couldn't bring myself to stop trying. She needed me, and it was a wonderful thing to be so needed. My cancer journey took me from Minnesota to Boston to South Dakota and finally back home, where I was surrounded by more love than I have ever known. It truly was both the best and the worst of times. Now, seven years later, I am healthy and happy, and my precious daughter is in no doubt as to her role in my well-being. She tells everyone that she saved my life, and I happily agree with her. Because of that love, I found the courage to continue my fight against the cancer that tried to claim me. Whatever your challenge, find your motivation and you can strive for success just like I did.