Guest Post: Making It Through Cancer and New Motherhood

Today I am excited to welcome my first guest writer to my blog! Heather has an incredible story of strength, survival, and the power of a mother’s love. When her daughter, Lily, was only 3 1/2 months old Heather was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. This type of cancer is deadly–it has only a 5% survival rate–but, sadly, it is 100% preventable. Now, 7 years later, Heather has beaten the asbestos disease and is a poster child for hope after Mesothelioma. If you would like to learn more about Heather, you can read her blog here. And, with no further ado, here is Heather’s story:

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Not too many adults can believe it when my daughter proudly exclaims that she saved me from cancer over seven years ago. She says it in such a matter-of-fact way that you can’t help but to question how that’s possible. However, it’s the truth. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some people don’t understand what kind of effect a child can truly have on someone going through cancer, but for me, Lily was my saving grace.

My husband Cameron and I waited about seven years before deciding that we ready for kids. It was the first time that we really gave it a lot of thought. I knew that it was the right moment to start. Once we made the decision, I was pregnant and in the midst of craving heaven. There were a lot of emotions that ran through me as a newly pregnant mother, but what I really wondered was what kind of mother I was going to be. I didn’t know how I was going to treat all kinds of situations that may come up during my kid’s life, but I just knew that as long as I was a good mom, then I could handle whatever came our way. I had so many dreams as all moms do about their kids and what kinds of things that life would bring. I never expected it to go the way that it did after Lily was born.

My pregnancy was smooth besides the delivery. On that day, the doctor told me that I had a breech baby and needed an emergency C-section. That moment was terrifying, but soon after, Lily was in my arms, just as beautiful as ever. I knew that I would do anything to protect this wonderful bundle of joy. It was the happiest moment of my life, and that must be why the news hit so hard a few months later when I realized that my body was not as healthy as I thought.

After my pregnancy, things started to get really strange for my body. I was tired all the time. I was losing a lot of weight every week. I went in for testing to figure out what was wrong. Three days before Thanksgiving, I went to the doctor’s office with Cameron. He has such an amazing heart and strength. This was a moment that really tested me as a human being and wife. The doctor told me that I had mesothelioma, and that I only had 15 months to live without treatment. I sat there in total shock, going over everything in my mind as he continued to talk about treatment. Cameron looked to me for help but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what treatment to pick. Cameron knew that there was only one option to save my life. We had to see a mesothelioma specialist in Boston who had a high success rate.

I knew that the road was going to be long and hard to recovery. In those first few months, I spent doting on Lily as much as I could, preparing for major surgery and what would come after: chemotherapy and radiation. During those months, I wasn’t going to be able to see Lily at all. I went in for major surgery to remove my lung and parts of my chest, diaphragm and heart. I was in the hospital for 18 days. It was such a difficult time in my life. The dreams that I had of being this healthy mom running and playing with my daughter looked so far off and away that it was hard to think of what was coming. However, I kept my strength and I held hope that the clouds were going to break.

Two months after being out of the hospital, I started chemotherapy and radiation. It was a rigorous and terrible process. I knew that it was trying to save my life, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was dying anyway. It was a very dark time. The only thing that kept me alive I truly feel was the thought of Lily. I wasn’t done yet. I had so many things to do in her life, and if I could just hold on, I knew that I could beat mesothelioma and the treatment that came with it.

Well, I did. I beat a cancer that takes 95 percent of the people that it infects. I’m here seven years later because of Lily. We did pick an amazing time to have a baby, just in time, in fact. Without Lily, I don’t know what the treatment process would have been like. Of course, my husband and family were there for me, but it was those feelings of being a mother and holding Lily in my arms that I knew I was going to make it.

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