My vision for Happy First is to be a place where people can come and connect with each other and be inspired. Through one of my blog posts in particular- My Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor Story I have seen people encourage and help one another in going through cancer. I am so thrilled that Cameron and Heather Von St. James found Happy First and asked to share their story with you all. The perspective from a caregiver is often overlooked. Here is their story; I know it will touch and encourage others and also create awareness.
Being a Cancer Caregiver is Hard: How I Coped With My Wife’s Diagnosis
My wife has said more than once that she has no idea what I went through when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Despite talking about it once, it’s a difficult thing to understand when you experience a struggle like this from different perspectives. Neither one of us had any idea that three months after our daughter was born we would be dealing with cancer. We had no idea that our joy would end and anger and confusion and fear would replace it. I watched tears run down Heather’s cheeks when her doctor told her she had cancer. All I could do was wonder how we would get through this. The anger is something I remember vividly. I used a lot of profanity for a while. I finally got my act together and made sure I was strong for my wife. I needed to be her rock. I made it happen, but it wasn’t easy. I had a long list of things to do that I didn’t think I could handle. Aside from the regular things I had to do such as work and caring for my wife and daughter, I had travel arrangements to make, treatment decisions, and doctor’s appointments to deal with. It didn’t take long before I started accepting all the generous offers of help that our friends and family approached me with. We were so very lucky to have that help and support during this difficult time. It helped me to prioritize our lives. I was still overwhelmed, but much less so. The most difficult time in all of this was immediately following Heather’s surgery in Boston. She needed time to recover before she began her next phase of mesothelioma treatment: chemotherapy and radiation. Fortunately, her parents were already watching Lily for us in South Dakota, so Heather hopped on a flight and spent the next two months with them recovering. Because I had to stay behind to work, I was only able to see my family once in those two months. I missed Heather and Lily so much.
I visited them one weekend, and spent 11 hours driving each way. I left on Friday after work, drove through a snowstorm, and did it all over again on Sunday so that I didn’t miss any work. It was a long, grueling trip from only a few precious hours of time with them, but it was worth it to see my family. This was such a difficult time for me, but I don’t regret the decision to stay home and work. I had to help our family the best way that I could. Since we were so fortunate to have her parents help with her recovery and with Lily, we were able to make this decision. It was difficult, but it was necessary. It was the best decision for our family at the time, which is the only reason I don’t regret it. That was six years ago. Heather is healthy and happy now, and I am wiser from all that I learned throughout her cancer experience. I learned that I have to accept help to get things done. I learned that we were lucky to have all that we did in that department. I hope that my experience can help even one person with their own experience with cancer.
A little about Cameron-
“Cameron is husband to Heather Von St. James, survivor advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and father to Lily Rose. He, along with Heather and young Lily, had their worlds turned upside down when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just 3 1/2 months after the birth of his only child. When faced with the very real possibility of raising Lily on his own, he fought alongside Heather in her battle with mesothelioma. It was his determination and refusal to compromise on doctors or treatments that led them to Boston to receive radical surgery from esteemed mesothelioma surgeon, David Sugarbaker. Heather continues to thrive 6 years later.
Through out the next few years, while being a caregiver to Heather and dad to Lily, Cameron returned to school full time to finish his degree. He worked full time, went to school full time and graduated with high honors at the top of his class in June of 2010 with a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology. He was soon offered a position at US Bank as Network Analyst and continues to pursue his career.
Like Heather, Cameron is passionate about bringing awareness to mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure. It is his hope that sharing his story will help others those battling cancer and their caregivers who provide them care and guidance in their journey.”
If you would like to connect with Heather, check out her facebook page.