Looking at Heather’s family photo, you would never know what they experienced when their daughter Lily was just over three months old. I cannot imagine being diagnosed with Mesothelioma just a few months after the birth of my only child.
Like many others; I have experienced a time when I needed my loved ones to help me through a difficult situation. At the time, I was only 36 years old, and my daughter Lily was born on August 4, 2005. It was such a great time in my life, but things quickly took a turn for the worse.
After giving birth to Lily, I went back to work; however, I felt extremely tired and was losing a lot of weight. I figured these were things that came with childbirth, but eventually I knew it was more than that, so I went to my doctor and underwent a myriad of test. That is when our worlds came to a screeching halt.
On November 21, 2005, I found out that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. This was a cancer caused by asbestos exposure; unfortunately, I was not aware that I was exposed to asbestos as a little girl. However, like in most cases, my symptoms did not arrive until decades after my exposure. Around 30 years to be exact.
When I received the diagnosis, I immediately thought about Lily, as any new mother would. If I did not treat this disease, I would only have about 15 months to live. As I looked at Lily and my husband, I knew that I could not leave them alone; I had to do whatever was necessary to save my life.
“Whatever was necessary” ended up being pretty drastic. My husband and I flew to Boston to meet with one of the best mesothelioma doctors, Dr. David Sugarbaker, and have a treatment called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This surgery involved the removal of my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue.
During my time in Boston, Lily stayed with my parents in their home, where I grew up in South Dakota. My parents were now not only grandparents to Lily, but they were actually raising her. Fortunately, they had tons of friends helping them along the way. I will never be able to repay or thank these people enough for their selflessness during this awful time in our lives. I also made friends in Boston, and these friends were experiencing the same thing I was experiencing. In order to get from one day to the next, I had to have the support of the people around us.
While Lily was in South Dakota, she continued to grow up quickly; unfortunately, I could only see her growth through black and white pictures that my mom would email and my husband would print at a community printer. I tried not to cry as I looked at photos of her, but I knew she was the reason I was fighting for my life. I was glad she was with my parents during this time.
My family now understands how uncertain life can be. For me, I encourage everyone to accept everything that comes with this life. Even with the bad situations, a lot of good can eventually be seen.
I’m amazed by Heather’s beautiful outlook and positive attitude. She is enjoying motherhood while raising awareness about Mesothelioma. You can read more about Heather’s story on her blog and connect with her on Facebook.