The following essay was written by Cameron Von St James, who sent me this inspirational story with a very happy ending. I was delighted to honor his request to post his essay on my weekly blog.
My wife Heather and I will always remember November 21, 2005. On that day, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and I became her caregiver. Just three months before, we had rejoiced over the birth of Lily, our only child. We had been blissfully enjoying the thrills of new parenthood, but all of that came to a halt when we heard the terrible news. Heather’s cancer diagnosis pulled the rug out from under us, and we began down a long and difficult road to save her life. The next few months would be utter chaos for our family.
As we began our new lifestyle of treatments and caregiving, it was hard to stay positive. Heather couldn’t work, and I needed to clear my days to take care of her. We went from two full-time jobs to one part-time job. The comfortable routine we had was replaced by a hectic schedule of doctors, traveling and caring for Lily on my own. I kept thinking that we would lose everything as we battled this disease. I was worried that Heather could die and that Lily would lose her mother at the end of the fight. I admit to breaking down in tears a few times, but Heather never knew. She didn’t have the energy to fret over me. She had her own battle to wage. I needed to stay strong for her.
Luckily, our friends, family and even total strangers helped Heather and me deal with our situation. We were bombarded with kind words and even much needed financial help to get us through the tough times. There’s no way to adequately show our appreciation to those who gave us support. If I had to give one piece of advice to other caregivers out there, it would be to accept every offer of help that comes your way. I had to learn that pride is something you can’t afford as a caregiver. Each offer of help that I accepted was a weight off my shoulders, and reminded me that I was not alone in caring for my wife.
Heather endured surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in the attempt to destroy her cancer over the following months. Despite the odds against her, she was able to do just that. It’s now been seven years since her mesothelioma diagnosis, and she remains cancer free to this day. We learned that when you fight such a tough foe, you need to make the most of every resource at your disposal. You’ll have good days and bad days, but you need to stay focused and confident. The most important thing is to never give up hope.
Being a cancer caregiver taught me how to better manage my time and how to deal with stress. Two years after her diagnosis, I decided to return to school. Being a caregiver had given me the courage I needed to pursue that dream of mine. Five years after our ordeal, I graduated at the top of my class, even being granted the opportunity to speak at my graduation. In my speech, I told my fellow graduates all that I had learned as my wife’s caregiver. I said that within each of us is the strength to accomplish incredible, even impossible things, as long as we never give up hope and always keep fighting for the ones we love.
Cameron Von St James
For more info on mesothelioma:
Andrew Siegel, M.D.
Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com
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