Monday, 1 April 2013

Guest blog

It's Asbestos Awareness week, and to draw attention to this subject Cameron Von St James has written a guest post. He talks about his experience following his wife Heather's mesothelioma diagnosis, and gives an insight into how it feels when a loved one has cancer.

Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, but Heather is now cancer free. I once read that if you can find ONE person who has survived with your type of cancer, then it's also possible for you to survive. The power of hope can never be undervalued, and Heather is a beacon of light for others with the same cancer diagnosis.

How We Got Through Cancer

After the birth of our daughter Lily, my wife and I were excited about making her first holiday season special. However, everything seemed to change a few months later. On a late November day, my wife Heather was given a cancer diagnosis. It was the day that I was forced into a position that I would never be ready for: the caregiver of a wife with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The job began the moment she got her diagnosis.

Her doctor began giving us background information on her condition and advised us to see a specialist. He gave us three different options, but my wife was in a total state of shock. Within a matter of seconds, I made it clear to him that we would be seeing the specialist in Boston.  His name was Dr. Sugarbaker and he was renowned for his experience in treating mesothelioma. While this decision was the best one for Heather's health, it would not be easy to make it through the next few months.

It was becoming increasingly difficult carry on with our lives. Between taking Heather to her appointments and taking care of Lily, on top of working as many hours as I could to support us, I was overwhelmed. Going from having two full-time incomes to less than one after Heather had to leave her job eventually put us in a financial bind. Feeling overwhelmed by our situation pushed me to my breaking point. I sat on the kitchen floor one night and suddenly felt myself coming apart. There was nothing I could do to fix the mess we were in. Nevertheless, I knew that I was going to have to find a way to be strong for my wife.  At that point, all I could do was keep moving forward and do the best I could to get my family through this tough battle.

I thought we had to go through this alone, but I was wrong. Friends and family members were able to help shoulder some of our burdens, be it emotional support, a meal, or even financial help to get us through our tough spot.  I had to learn that there was no room for pride in this fight, and once I accepted that, these offers of help lifted a weight from my shoulders.

Having gone through this experience, I can honestly say that it is not easy on anyone involved. While Heather had to focus on getting well, it was my responsibility as her caregiver to make things easier for her. It is important to learn how to manage negative emotions. Once they find a door, anger and fear will certainly try to sneak their way in. Relying on friends and family is the only way to keep from drowning in the despair.  Above all else, never give up hope.

Despite the difficult fight and the bleak prognosis for mesothelioma, Heather is here seven years later, and is cancer free. This entire experience has taught me to value my family, our time together and my stubborn streak. It just goes to show that with a little bit of hope, people have the ability to achieve their heart's desires.  Heather and I hope that by sharing our story, we can help inspire others in their own battles with cancer, to never give up and never, ever stop fighting for the ones they love.

No comments:

Post a Comment