A couple of days ago I got an email from out of the blue. Sometimes these things can be great but many times they are just spam. This one most definitely was not.
You see...it was from Heather Von St. James and as I quickly learned, she is a hug voice for Asbestos Awareness and the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. She was asking if I'd be willing to help spread the word that this is Asbestos Awareness Week.
Why is this cause close to my heart you ask? It is because my step dad was diagnosed with Mesothelioma a few years ago and at first was told that it was inoperable. He was in the Navy and had been exposed to Asbestos then. Thankfully he didn't give up, kept searching for help and eventually he found Dr. Raja Flores at Sloan Kettering who said it was operable and he was willing to do the surgery. That was almost 6 ago. My family knows that without Dr. Flores's help, Pop wouldn't be with us right now.
Heather's story is beyond amazing and I am thrilled to have "met" her.
She gave me full reign to share as much of her story as I'd like so here is an excerpt.
My name is Heather Von St. James. I’m a mesothelioma survivor.
Mesothelioma is an old man’s disease, or so most people think, if they think about it at all. The kind of thing that veterans and construction workers and other people who worked with asbestos get. A person inhales the fibers and they lodge themselves permanently in the lining of the lungs, weakening the immune system until mesothelioma appears, decades later. It’s not the sort of thing a 36-year-old hairdresser usually gets.
When I was young I used to love to wear my dad’s coat from work. It was big, warm and comforting, made of heavy nylon. It made me feel closer to him when I was going about my chores in the bitter cold of South Dakota. It also happened to be covered with white drywall dust from his construction job. Every time I wore his coat, I breathed in a little more asbestos. That was enough.
I had just celebrated the birth of my daughter, Lily, when I was diagnosed. Rapid weight loss, low energy, and trouble breathing that I thought was just a slow recovery from childbirth turned into chronic fatigue and a strange heaviness in my chest. A visit to my doctor turned into the word that nobody wants to hear from a physician. From joy to terror in just a few short months.
Very few people with Mesothelioma survive for more than a year. I was told I had 15 months, five years at the most with conventional treatments. My husband Cameron and I decided that wasn’t good enough. I was going to scrap and fight and do everything I could to beat it. When my doctor told us that a drastic surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy offered the best possibility of survival, we knew we had to take the chance, even though the possibility of side effects was very high.
And please spread the word. Until the initial email I receive from Heather arrived, I had no idea that Asbestos is still so prevent in the world, that so many people are diagnosed with it and that it is affecting not only the older people but the much younger ones too.
This is one nasty substance that no one should ever have to worry about again. Together we can make our voices heard.