Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.
On the tender heels of Thanksgiving, my 11-year old, Colby asked to share a bit of his heart from this past year. I’m overwhelmed posting this … but it’s wonderful to see my 3 beautiful boys holding on and pressing in to the gift of Faith that they have eagerly unwrapped. I am blessed.
A Year of Cancer through the Eyes of a Child
Thanksgiving was a really good time for me to look back on my life, including the rocky road of the last year and find all of the blessings that abound. I truly thank God for my life, my health and SO much more … my family, house, food in my stomach, a free country, my Mom’s health, my education, and the very air I breathe. I realize that sometimes God throws tough times (tests) at you. In order to get an A+ on each test, you must remain faithful to Him, and never give up. Even though this was a struggling time in our family we never gave up on Mom, or God.
So the big test, the journey we never expected to take was this past year. The test has been the most difficult one I’ve taken so far in my 11 years. On December 26, 2012 my Mom and Dad called my brothers and me into their room. As they told us that the call came and a stage III breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed—I felt a sudden pain in my gut. At that moment I knew it was serious … this was really happening. My parents were open and honest about everything they knew, and that alone helped to make us feel safe. Though I know people who have gone through cancer, it’s hard to imagine it happening to my Mom. It was very hard to believe, and though at first I didn’t want to, I knew that I had to face reality and trust God to take the wheel.
Before that dreaded day, we knew “cancer” was definitely a possibility. But regardless of that thought lurking days before Christmas, my parents made everything as normal as possible and full of love. They still showed us the wonder and generosity of the season in the face of such upsetting news. Shortly after diagnosis, the next challenge was learning that chemotherapy treatment would be the first thing my Mom would experience. My parents helped to explain chemotherapy and the side effects that would likely happen. It helped me to know that if and when Mom was sick, it was not because the disease was making her sick, but instead because the medication was attacking the cancer cells with the intent to make her better.
My Mom was strong and worked through treatment. Every Thursday for 20 weeks starting in January, she would go into Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Though I was not able to go with her every week, my Mom made special arrangements to be sure we went with her at least a few times. I think my mom wanted my brothers and I to see that chemotherapy wasn’t scary. The first time I went to Dana-Farber I was a bit nervous, thinking it would be creepy with a lot of very sick people there. It didn’t take long to learn that my fears were far from the real thing. Though difficult for the patients experiencing chemo, the people and atmosphere were both warm and welcoming.
Chemo was still sometimes scary for my brothers and me. It’s awful when you want so much to take away someone’s pain but can’t. During this time I tried to help in every way possible throughout the house. Since mom was getting weaker after many treatments, her ability to do all the things she used to do in the house decreased. I tried to spend time after school doing some simple cleanup and chores around the house. It felt good to give back to her, especially when she was tired and struggling with a serious illness. I hated seeing her sick and really loved making her happy. I knew that as tough as chemo was, it was made to help stop the cancer in its tracks.
When my Mom started to lose her hair during chemotherapy, as a family, we gathered and made a family time to shave her head. I know it was hard for her to lose her beautiful hair, but we helped to lighten the mood with a little “buzz” party.
Chemo was a very difficult time, but we got through it as a family.
Things moved fast. After Chemo was finally over, Mom was trying to get strong for surgery. The goal of surgery was to remove any remaining cancer out of her body. I was very scared for her. Every night I prayed, and prayed that she would be fine. The day of surgery finally came (actually on my younger brother, Logan’s birthday). My Mom was a brave person on that day. She was in the hospital for 5 days and we missed her so much. My grandparents watched us and helped prepare for Mom coming home. Before she arrived, we made her a big “WELCOME HOME!” sign. She lit up seeing that and it made us so happy! When she got home, things were tough for a while. She was always very sleepy and never felt good. But, The Lord is good. He kept her safe through all of this.
Radiation treatment came next. Mom was a little anxious at first, but then she learned that it wouldn’t be as bad as the other treatments. I was so thankful that she had gotten through the treatments before. Through the house, all of us were asking questions like “Doesn’t radiation give you cancer?” and “Won’t you get burned?” All of the questions were answered, and we weren’t as anxious as before. The family got together and prayed that mom would get through the last treatment. Mom did get some burns, but she took it in stride … nothing too bad.
I love that my parents have been honest with everything going on. They always make us know that we can go to them anytime with any question and we trust and believe that they will answer it honestly.
I thank God every day for Moms health. I hope and pray that God will always keep her in his healing hand.
My heart goes out to other kids traveling this same road. My prayer is that they will have Faith and believe that God has them in the palm of His hand regardless of the situation. Thieves can’t take you away when you’re resting in the palm of His hand.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” —Ephesians 2:8-9
Purposefully Speaking Loud & Clear on the Lost Voice of Mesothelioma
Because … Hope will never be silent
It’s time now to roll up the pink carpets of breast cancer awareness month … and set our sights on WHITE. November is National Lung Cancer Awareness month, bringing critical attention to the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States.
I was blessed and honored recently to be contacted by Cameron Von St. James—a hero in his own right … who humbly and passionately takes on the roles of Husband, Father and passionate mesothelioma advocate for his beautiful wife, Heather, as well as countless other victims of this deadly disease. Cameron invited me to join him on his mission to share their divine family story of hope in the face of this so often overlooked cancer.
The truth is for many people—white ribbons this month represent the very real reminder and sting of experiencing lung cancer either firsthand or through watching a loved one on the front lines battle or even lose his or her life to lung cancer.
Strictly speaking, the “color” white is not really a color at all, but rather a manifestation of the presence of ALL color—the complete power of light. My earnest hope is that the powerful light of education will shine bright on the face of lung cancer not only for the month of November … but all year.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma lies hidden under the lung cancer “umbrella,” often a lost form of cancer—though deadly. The cancer cells of mesothelioma can involve the lining of ANY organ, but the typical site tends to be the lining of the lungs. Tragically, mesothelioma is among one of many cancers that is still considered incurable. It’s associated with exposure to asbestos—a deadly carcinogen that is sadly, still found in many structures built before its ban by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. Even small amounts of asbestos and/or infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Heather Von St. James was just 36 years old when she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma—just three short months after giving birth to a beautiful daughter, Lily Rose in 2005. Heather and Cam sought treatment at Brigham & Women’s Hospital to undergo a groundbreaking surgical procedure with the goal of delivering the best possible outcome.
Today, Heather is an eight-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and a keynote speaker at conferences all over, in addition to social media platforms … where she thrives on providing continuous support and inspiration to mesothelioma victims around the globe. Her story is one of hope, faith … and love.
I invite you to meet Heather Von St. James—a beacon of light to so many afflicted with mesothelioma. Please join her mission by sharing her story with others. Pouring hope and light through shared education and support is strong advocacy in its most indispensable form.