The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Guest Post: Becoming a Caregiver - How My Wife and I Dealt With Cancer

The following blog post was written by Cameron Von St. James, and I am posting it here at his request. It is a story of hope, and struggle, and persistent love, and honesty in the face of bad news. For those of you that want to contact him, please consider his blog (

In sidebar news, I am still "NED" but we are monitoring my insides every six months via CT scan and I meet with my liver surgeon and/or oncologist every three months. For now, all systems are "go."

GUEST POST: "My wife has often said that she has no idea how hard it was for me when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was three months after Heather gave birth to our daughter, Lily. Those three months were filled with hope and joy and happiness. All of that was stolen from our lives when Heather’s doctor looked at her and told her about her cancer. I remember wondering how we were going to get through this.

I was angry. I was so angry that sometimes I was only able to use profane language to communicate. I quickly realized, however, that I needed to gain control of my emotions and be strong for my wife. She needed someone with optimism and strength; she needed me to be her rock. It wasn’t easy for me, but I managed to do it. This time in our lives was very difficult and very busy. I was overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that I’d been given. I was working, taking care of my wife and daughter, making travel arrangements, and taking care of our pets and home. If it wasn’t for all the help our loved ones offered during this time, I’m not sure how I would have made it through.

Of everything we endured while my wife suffered from cancer, it was my two-month separation from Heather and Lily that was the most difficult on me. Lily was in South Dakota with Heather’s parents, while Heather and I were in Boston for her surgery. Heather left Boston and flew to South Dakota to be with Lily and her parents for her recovery immediately after her surgery. She needed the recovery time to prepare for her next phase of mesothelioma treatment: radiation and chemotherapy. Because I had to stay behind to work, I saw Heather and Lily only one time. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but we had to do what was best for our family. Fortunately, we had Heather’s parents in our lives to help her with Lily and her recovery so that I could work to continue supporting our family.

The one time I saw my wife and daughter was when I drove 11 hours in a snowstorm to see them. I left Friday after work and had to be home in time to go back to work on Monday morning. The trip was long, exhausting, and entirely too short. I was only able to spend Saturday and a few hours on Sunday morning with the two of them, before driving back home for work on Monday.

This was not an easy time in my life, but it was something I don’t look back on with regret. We were very fortunate to have the ability to make the decisions we made. All the help that was offered to us was invaluable, and it was because of this help that I was able to prioritize the many things that needed doing and help my family. What I learned most was that I had to accept help as it was offered to me. Without this help, I don’t know what we would have done.

When Heather first received her diagnosis, we learned that most mesothelioma patients typically have a life expectancy measured in months. It was difficult to hold on to hope when presented with information like that. However, my family stuck together and stayed strong, and Heather has defied the odds. After intense treatment and with a never-give-up attitude, months turned into years. Heather is here, healthy and cancer free, over six years later, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the second chance we’ve been given. Heather has been able to watch our daughter grow up, and our lives have returned to a state of relative normalcy. We hope that our story can be a source of hope and optimism for people currently struggling with cancer."

- Cameron Von St. James

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