I received an email from a reader named Cameron Von St. James. His wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Normally when diagnosed with mesothelioma, a person has a life expectancy of about 3-12 months, but after intense treatment and recovery she is still here 7 years later. His story is one of hope and love so I was more than happy to share it as I know there are many people who are or have been caretakers to a loved one. Here is his story:
Supporting My Wife During a Difficult Situation
My wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. This was an unforgettable day for my family and me. We celebrated the birth of our daughter Lily three months earlier, and now I could only think about becoming a caregiver to a cancer patient. We never imagined dealing with cancer during our first holiday season together.
I realized the challenges of being caregiver to a cancer patient before we even left the doctor’s office. We were given several treatment options, and the doctors expected a decision. However, when I looked over at my wife, I knew that she was still shocked and terrified. I jumped in and made the call for her. I told our doctor that we would be visiting Dr. David Sugarbaker, a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. It was the first of many difficult decisions that we would be making in the coming months.
Over the next two months, our lives consisted of complete turmoil. We were no longer accustomed to our daily routines. Heather could not work during her treatment process, and since I was her caregiver, I could only work part-time. I was faced with so many responsibilities, including doctor’s appointments, travel arrangements, care for Lily; the list went on and on. I was so fearful of losing Heather, becoming broke, and having to raise Lily all alone. The stress and the pressure caused me, on several occasions, to break down crying on the kitchen floor. However, when I was around Heather, I would never shed a tear. I knew I needed to stay strong and was definitely the rock that she needed for support.
Thankfully, we had many friends who stepped in to help. We received help from so many different people in so many different ways. As a result, I always encourage other caregivers of cancer patients to accept any assistance that is offered to them. Regardless of how large or small the offer may be, you should always accept it. There is no room for pride when a loved one’s life is on the line.
When caring for a cancer patient, you will have a difficult job. However, be sure that you do not allow your emotions to take control of you. Allow yourself to have bad days – this is inevitable – but always hold onto hope and keep fighting.
Throughout Heather’s journey through cancer, we always held on to hope. She went through intense and difficult treatment for mesothelioma, and went into full remission. It has been seven years since Heather was diagnosed with cancer, and I am glad to say that she is currently cancer free. My wife’s cancer diagnosis allowed me to see that time is precious, and that we should make the most of every minute.
Two years after Heather’s diagnosis, I went back to school to get my degree. After all of my experiences, I was fully prepared for school; furthermore, I graduated with honors and gave a speech during the graduation. During my graduation speech, I focused on the idea that as long as we believe in ourselves, we can accomplish so much in life. Lily and her mom were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.
Here are some links to find out more about my journey and mesothelioma: