Hi guys! Today, I want to talk about something super important. April 1-7th is Asbestos Awareness Week. I recently had to opportunity to get in touch with Heather Von St. James, a courageous mother and nine-year survivor of mesothelioma.
In 2005, Heather was 36-years-old and had just given birth to her daughter, Lily. Three months after giving birth, Heather began to feel sick and started to lose about 5-7 pounds a week. Progressively, it became hard for her to breathe and her doctors really began to worry. Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma and was given just 15 months to live.
Exposure to asbestos, a set of six six minerals that form fibrous strands and are often used in building and electrical insulation, is the leading risk factor associated with mesothelioma. So how did Heather develop this rare form of cancer?
When Heather was a child, her dad worked in construction. He would come home from work covered in dust, so much so that his jacket would actually be white. The white dust on her dad’s jacket was from the drywall he sanded off walls. Guess what drywall is commonly made of… asbestos. Heather grew up wearing her dad’s asbestos-covered coat when she want outside, and that’s how her exposure happened.
Heather was sent to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to have surgery and be treated for her mesothelioma. Her daughter went to live with Heather’s parents while she and her husband, Cameron were in Boston for her treatment. Heather recovered at her parents house in South Dakota for a few months, and Cameron was only able to see their new baby for three days during that time period.
Today, Heather is cancer-free, and Lily has grown into a young girl. Their family is together and thriving. Heather said that she and Cameron don’t hide from Lily the fact that she had cancer when Lily was a baby. Heather also said that she is extremely optimistic and that she was absolutely determined to beat mesothelioma. She now encourages others not to give up, not to take a diagnosis as a death sentence, and to always have hope.
Heather has made it her mission to share her story so others are aware of the dangers of asbestos and mesothelioma. She hopes that by spreading awareness, no one else will have to endure what she and her family had to go through. She’s fighting not only for better treatment of mesothelioma, but a cure for it as well.
If you’re anything like me, you may not know much about asbestos or mesothelioma. Before learning Heather’s story, I had only heard about it from my dad telling me that he would always advise his real estate clients not to work on a house with asbestos. The sad thing is that asbestos is still used today, even in schools.
Heather sent me the infographic below to help others become aware and educated about the dangers of asbestos and the severity of mesothelioma.
You can also learn more about mesothelioma here, asbestos here, and read about Heather here. She is truly inspiring! I have also embedded a video below of Heather and Cameron discussing her experience with mesothelioma from before diagnosis to present day.