Monday, June 4, 2012

It Takes a Village to Fight Mesothelioma

Editorial note:  A very special lady recently contacted me regarding her recent fight with Mesothelioma.  I am happy to publish her story here on my site, to help inspire other women who may be experiencing these kinds of tough times in their lives.

Her story is below:

To do just about anything difficult, “it takes a village”. You might’ve heard this phrase before, and frankly, it really does get thrown around a lot. However, as commonplace as the phrase may be, my ordeals have truly made me realize the importance of having a “village” when times are tough.

On August 4th, 2005, I gave birth to my daughter Lily. Except for an emergency C-section during delivery, the entire pregnancy was perfectly normal. However, despite its normalcy, being pregnant isn’t the easiest – or most enjoyable – thing in the world: it can be pretty tough. Thankfully many hardships often associated with pregnancy were alleviated slightly, since my husband and I were surrounded by our “village.” Our friends, my parents, and his family were all there to help support us and welcome Lily into the world. While the aura in the delivery room was one of celebration, happiness and relief, there was a storm looming on the horizon—one which none of us could’ve ever predicted.

A month after I returned to work, I began to feel increasingly tired, breathless and devoid of energy. Although these were symptoms typical of any new mother, there was something about them that didn’t bode well. Worried, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to try and see what was wrong. After numerous tests, I was given a shocking diagnosis on November 5th, 2005: the symptoms I had been experiencing weren’t that of motherhood, but instead, of malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer, caused by unknowing exposure to asbestos as a child.

Given only 15 months to live if I didn’t do anything, my husband and I made the drastic decision to fly to Boston to undergo treatment for mesothelioma. My daughter, then only three and a half months old, was left in South Dakota to be cared for by her grandparents. The treatment I underwent in Boston required the removal of my left lung, which necessitated an 18-day recovery period in the hospital. However, this was only the first part of my treatment. I also needed to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, which could only be performed after an additional two months of recovery.

Undergoing hardships similar to the ones I did really help you realize who your friends are, and how important it is to have a village. People from many different parts of my life came out of the woodwork during my time of need, whether it was to take care of my daughter or simply assist me in any way they could. My grandparents continued to raise my daughter and I had the opportunity to see her grow through grainy black and white photos printed on a community printer in the hospital. Seeing these photos nearly brought me to tears: it was painful to see my daughter reach milestones without me there. However, she was the reason I was fighting: if it wasn’t for her or my village, I might’ve lost my fight to cancer.

But I didn’t.

The deadly cancer that once threatened my life has now been replaced with a new outlook on life, which is to embrace everything that comes at you, good or bad. If there is one thing I’ve learned from having mesothelioma, it’s that from the bad comes a great deal of good, which in this case, was my wonderful village.