Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mesothelia Awareness Day, Sept. 26

Since starting this blog for mom back in 2009, my sole intent was to just keep my family updated…however, I have had the chance to correspond with many other cancer bloggers who are either survivors, or support someone who is living with cancer. There are many stories and there are thousands of people out there with cancer – ovarian, uterine, liver, lung, pancreatic – you name it. Someone has been affected by cancer. Just this last year, my boss lost both his mother and father to cancer, and over the summer my in-laws lost a loved one to a cancerous brain tumor.

Cameron, Lily and Heather Von St. James
This blog has also given me opportunities to connect with other families affected by cancer. One family I’ve been in contact with - Heather and Cameron Von St. James - asked if I would help spread awareness about annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Friday, Sept. 26. Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at the age of 36 shortly after giving birth to her daughter Lily and was only given 15 months to live. After the diagnosis, most mesothelioma patients are only given about 10 months to live. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early and Heather was able to have a procedure done that involved removing her right lung. Because of that life saving surgery, Heather can call herself an 8-year survivor…and each year she looks forward to tacking on another number.

We know the main cause of Mesothelioma: asbestos. I’ve always known about asbestos, and I work around asbestos-laden areas every day (it is contained). I’m continually amazed at how such a ubiquitous material was widely used back in “my” day - the 70's - and was once used in consumer products that included household items such as toasters and hair dryers.

You could still be using a toaster that has asbestos in it.

The most unfortunate part is that asbestos can reside in the body for YEARS and mesothelioma will lie dormant in the body for 20-50 years after someone is exposed to asbestos. And, just like with Ovarian Cancer, the symptoms of Mesothelioma are subtle and can be misinterpreted or all too frequently ignored or dismissed by people who are inclined to attribute them to common every day ailments: chronic cough, back pain, shortness of breath.

I feel that if I can help spread awareness about cancer, then someone else can also add their voice to the collective and hopefully we can prompt people to pay attention to their body and know the signs before a cancer gets out of control. Some cancers are preventable and can be eradicated if caught early. 

Heather has a great story – www.mesothelioma.com/heather - and it encourages me that there are many stories of hope out there just like Heather's and my mom's. It is Heather and her husband Cameron’s mission to reach out and ask people to spread the message about mesothelioma awareness to prevent this from happening to another family.

And if the unavoidable happens, then sharing information about other cancer success stories can give people hope. As I have learned with my mom's story, hope can mean all the difference.

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