My Journey with Cancer and How it Changed Me for the Better
In early August of 2005, my only child was welcomed into the world with great joy. My husband and I were excited about Lily's new life; excited about all of the fun we were going to have together, about all of the experiences of learning we would share with her.
Then the ground fell out from under our feet. On November 21st 2005, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Quick research discovered the statistics. Only 2% live more than five years after the diagnosis. My world was crashing down around me. I felt like all hope was gone. Then a dear friend reminded me that someone has to be that 2%. I immediately decided that I was going to be the 2%.
The next year taught me so much. One of the most surprising things I learned is that I am much, much stronger than I imagined. It was an exhausting year, but I came out on top. I was referred to one of the worlds leading mesothelioma doctors, Dr. David Sugarbaker, at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s clinic. I traveled across the country and underwent surgery in February of 2006 to remove my left lung and the whole lining around it where the tumor was. I went through chemotherapy and radiation. I spent that first year of Lily's life as one sick mama, but she never knew. I was disappointed I had to miss out of many of her milestones, but I knew that if I missed these, it was so I could be there for the rest of the milestones throughout her life. In October 2006, we had a huge celebration. I was finished with treatments, and my cancer was gone!
We felt like we were on top of the world again, but this time we were careful. We know that nothing is secure, and we know what it's like to be on the under side. But now we know how precious everything in life is, especially the little things.
I learned firsthand about the struggles of people fighting against mesothelioma cancer. I met so many wonderful people through my experience that I'll always remember. They are cancer fighters who threw all of their strength, tenacity, courage and passion into their battle. I met their family members who invested all of their own strength into helping the cancer patient. People I stood with and grieved when their loved ones lost the battle. Doctors who helped me make hard, necessary decisions. I met nurses who greeted me every time with a smile and encouraging words. These people changed my life. They have given me the determination to start a life long battle against mesothelioma wherever it is.
Life for me is very good. Lily is thriving and she brings me joy every single day. But I can never forget that year when life was not good. I will use my experience to help others.
Read more at Heather's blog at mesothelioma.com