Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mesothelioma - Heather Von St James

When Heather Von St. James reached out to me, in support of November being National Lung Cancer Month, I just knew I had to share her story, and help raise awareness. There are so many diseases and types of cancers that we might think would never effect us, but they can.

First of all, let me tell you something about Heather, she's beautiful.
Heather was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma just three months after her daughter was born. As someone who just watched their sister have a baby, and as I am finishing up my doula training and am surrounded by pregnant women I just can't imagine what she was feeling when she was told she had 15 months to live; and she had a three month old.

Heather contracted pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which affects the lining of the lungs; from wearing her dad's work jacket to do chores outside when she was young. Her dad worked around asbestos, and it was on his jacket. You can read all about the causes of Mesothelioma here. Can you believe that asbestos still isn't banned in the US today?!
I was really surprised to learn that mesothelioma has a latency period that is generally 30-40 years from when exposure happened to point of diagnosis. Which then means that often the cancer progresses to the later stages before a diagnosis is made.

Symptoms of mesothelioma are widespread, the most common being lower back pain and/or side chest pain. I thought it was interesting that early signs and symptoms are often ignored and dismissed by people are every day problems, or they just get used to having them in their lives. My doctor said the same thing about Lyme Disease patients; which really makes me think that we all need to start paying more attention to the changes happening in our bodies, and to take them seriously.

Not only is Heather beautiful, but her family is so beautiful. I am so glad that she's still here, to be a mother to her little Lilly, and to help raise awareness for this rare form of cancer. She has such a positive attitude about life and it's infectious. Watch her video about her experience here, and catch some of her infectious positive attitude, and keep your lungs safe!

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