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:

heatherfamily

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.

Screen Shot 2012-07-26 at 8.01.15 AM

20 Things I Do That I Never Thought I Would Do (Now That I’m A Mom)

Motherhood has changed me, for better or worse! A lot has changed in my life since becoming a mom. For instance, before becoming a mom I never thought I would:

  1. photograph poop.
  2. share photos of poop with my friends and family.
  3. eat Mac and Cheese for lunch 5 straight days in a row.
  4. get dressed in the morning–almost EVERY morning–by changing out of black yoga pants (my P.J’s) into black yoga pants (my “outfit”).
  5. count a solo trip to the grocery store as “me time”.
  6. choose a restaurant based on the following criteria: noise level (the louder the better), food selection (chicken nuggets must be on the menu), and whether the high chairs have properly functioning restraint devices.
  7. own 57 balls (and counting…).
  8. actually look forward to dentist visits (one of the only times I get to be by myself, lay in a *relatively* comfy chair and zone out for an hour).
  9. get poop or spit-up on my clothes and debate whether it’s really worth changing my outfit.
  10. spend my few-and-far-between date nights talking about the very children I left just a moment ago.
  11. enjoy folding laundry–sometimes (baby clothes are so cute!).
  12. use plastic party cups to scoop poop out of the tub (in another life those held a nice, cold adult beverage).
  13. schedule my showers like I used to schedule hair appointments–phone calls and calendar entries required.
  14. get a song stuck in my head only to realize it’s the made-up tune played by the baby bouncer or the jumperoo.
  15. forget to shut the bathroom door when guests are in my house.
  16. let the dog lick of the baby’s face after a meal.
  17. wake up to the baby’s cries, get dressed for the day and walk out of my room only to realize that it’s 3 AM
  18. flash an innocent bystander when the baby suddenly rips the nursing cover off of his face.
  19. know every. single. word. in the “Birthday Party” episode of Blue’s Clues.

And, finally–

20. love two tiny people with a love so big that I would give my very life for them.
Jacob week 1 - 0459