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Tutoring For Your Needs • Passion For Education

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Jun 192012

Message from The Tutoring Solution: Every so often we are presented with stories of hardship and hope; stories that are so inspiring that we feel the need to share them with others – this is one of those stories.  Thank you Heather for sharing your story with our readers.


People say “it takes a village” to raise a child. I had no idea that in the months following the birth of my daughter, Lily, I would come to understand this phrase in a new way. She was born August 4th, 2005. When learning to juggle both my work and role as a mother, I relied on my parents, husband, and friends for support. All was well for a short time.

A few months later, I noticed symptoms of extreme fatigue and breathlessness. As a new mom, I knew some fatigue was normal, but I decided to check with my doctor. The news was shocking. I was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer in the lining of the lung, caused primarily by asbestos exposure. My thoughts instantly went to Lily. The doctor gave me a prognosis of fifteen months and I couldn’t imagine my husband and Lily alone in the world without me. I knew I must do whatever it took to stay alive.

We made the decision to undergo treatment with an excellent doctor in the field of mesothelioma. This required us to fly to Boston and leave Lily with my parents. On February 2nd, I had a surgery called extrapleural pneumenectomy, which removed my left lung. I spent 18 days recovering in the hospital and then proceeded to undergo chemotherapy and radiation.

The people, who supported us during the birth of Lily, became a crucial part of Lily’s care. My parents went from grandparents to primary caregivers. Old friends from the past stepped up to babysit Lily and help my parents out. The number of people who came out of the woodwork to support us was overwhelming. Others, who we imagined would help, fled in the face of such a grave illness.

The prayer, love, and support were the driving force behind our success. We managed to find a community of people in Boston who helped us as well. This is how we managed day to day- with a village behind Lily and us.

Heather & Lily Von St. James

Heather & Lily Von St. James

As I continued to fight the cancer, Lily was in South Dakota, growing quickly. She learned to eat solid food, scoot along the floor, and roll around. The grainy black and white photos sent from my mom were the only connection I had to her. The pictures brought tears to my eyes and I fought them back as I reminded myself why I was fighting so hard to live. I knew she was in good hands with my parents.

We are grateful for the village of people who have surrounded us in our darkest hour. Cancer is a grim diagnosis, but out of it has come a lot of good.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

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