Skip to content

Mesothelioma – A Story of Struggle and Survival

by on October 2, 2012

Heather’s story can be found at the link at the right.  She blogs to inform others about mesothelioma, its cause and its reach, the treatments, and the struggle.  Her courageous story follows:

My Mesothelioma Story

by Heather Von St. James

“You have cancer.”

These three words strike fear into anyone’s heart.

I heard those three horrible words during what should have been the best time of my life. I had just had a baby 3 ½ months earlier. I should have been happy.

Instead, I was given a diagnosis of cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is primarily caused by asbestos exposure.

“Asbestos? Wait, isn’t that banned?” people would ask when I explained my diagnosis. That’s always the first question. The second is usually, “How were you exposed?”

To answer the first question, no, asbestos hasn’t been fully banned, only restricted.

To answer the second, I got it from my dad. He was a construction worker who did a lot of drywall work, mudding, and sanding. The dust would cling to his clothes, his jacket, the upholstery in his car. He’d bring it home, not knowing that it was anything more than plain white dust. He didn’t know that it was filled with millions of invisible asbestos fibers.

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 36, the Mayo clinic had only heard of one other case occurring in someone so young. A typical mesothelioma patient is an older male who has worked in the construction trades. Mesothelioma is common in plumbers, electricians, HVAC workers, mechanics, and military veterans.

But then those workers’ wives started to get sick. Women who would shake the asbestos dust off their husbands’ work clothes before throwing them in the laundry were coming down with mesothelioma, as were women who worked as secretaries and assistants in asbestos-laden buildings.

I was one of the first of a new wave of mesothelioma patients, the children of asbestos workers. We were children who attended schools where the asbestos-laden ceilings were starting to crumble. We were children who had played happily in attics full of vermiculite insulation contaminated with asbestos. We were the children who had rushed to jump into our dad’s arms when he got home from work, who had unknowingly breathed in the dangerous dust he didn’t know he had brought home with him.

The more involved I get with the mesothelioma community, the younger patients I am coming to know. These are men and women just starting their lives, people with new careers, new marriages, and newborn babies to care for; it all has to come to a halt so they can focus on beating mesothelioma.

Treatment is advancing. More people of all ages are able to survive mesothelioma and move on with their lives.

Hearing that you have cancer is devastating, but I still have hope, as do so many of us with mesothelioma. We come together as a community to share, to support, to grieve and celebrate.

I share my story to raise awareness. Nothing will change until there is more awareness of mesothelioma. If my story can offer hope to someone with a new diagnosis, I know I’m doing the right thing.


From → Fitness & Health

Leave a Comment


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: