I Fought Fears So My Wife Could Fight Cancer
by Cameron Von St. James
The most terrifying day of my life was November 21, 2005. It was that day that my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just three months after giving birth to our first and only daughter, Lily. My life was never the same after receiving that news, but in the years that we battled cancer, I learned lessons that will last me a lifetime.
During the first two months of our battle, our lives were utter chaos. I worked, took care of Lily at home, took care of the bills, and cared for Heather as she endured the hell of cancer. It was an emotionally draining time and I cried many nights, fearing that I wasn't doing enough, even though there were times when I knew I was doing too much. There was no choice. If we were going to beat this thing and raise Lily together, we had to do anything we could. Heather's energies were focused on getting well, mine were pulled in every other direction.
Medical bills soon piled up and financial pressures were at an all-time high. We had to travel to Boston for treatments and soon the bills were skyrocketing. For the first time in my life, I accepted financial help from family and friends when they offered it. In this war, anything went. We simply had to take every possible avenue of help that we could if we were going to make it. My strongest advice for any caregiver or cancer patient is to accept every offer of help that comes your way. There is no room for pride in a fight with cancer, and even the smallest offer of help, be it a meal, a shoulder to cry on or a kind word of encouragement, can be a weight lifted off your shoulders and at the very least will remind you that you’re not alone.
I'm so proud of Heather for what she endured during this time and the beautiful person she remained during it. Today, over seven years after her mesothelioma diagnosis she is cancer-free and healthy. Lily has her mother, something that I feared she wouldn't be able to experience.
Two years after Heather’s diagnosis, I returned to school to get my college degree, with the lessons I learned through my family’s fight against cancer. I received my degree in Information Technology and graduated with high honors. I was able to share some of these experiences during my graduation speech, an honor that I readily accepted when it came my way. The lessons I learned during Heather's battle with cancer are the most valuable of my life, and I shared them with my fellow graduates that day, telling them that within each of us is the strength to accomplish impossible things. Heather and Lily were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.