Today in place of my new blog series "The Girl Behind the Blog", I'd like to share a story from Heather, a new mother who learns she has mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. She shares how her new baby girl gave her a reason to be strong, and fight for her life.
Heather chose to share her story to spread awareness of this little known form of cancer, which kills 90-95% of those who get it, and sadly, it is 100% preventable. She would like to be someone who others can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in situations like her own.
Surviving Cancer as a First Time Mother
As told by Heather
When asked about my cancer, my seven year old daughter proudly declares that she saved her mommy’s life. Such a fact is routine to her. When people hear this response, they may not believe her. However, my daughter is telling the truth.
After our wedding, my husband Cameron and I chose to wait seven years before considering having children. Once we were ready to have children, I was thirty-five. I knew the risks of having children at my age. I was not sure how long it would take for me to get pregnant. As it turns out, it did not take long. Within three months I was pregnant! I was shocked nervous and excited all at once. I was going to be a mother!
I started thinking about the baby growing inside of me. As any new mother, I was shocked, excited, and nervous all at the same time. It’s funny to look back and think about how fast I started acting like a mommy. Rubbing my belly, I would get excited thinking about our precious baby growing inside of me. I had so many questions. What kind of mom would I be? Fun? Strict? Cool? Mostly, I wanted to be a good mother.
I could not believe how well the pregnancy went. I told people I could have gone through ten more pregnancies. However, things got a little more complicated when it was time to deliver my daughter Lily. She was breech, so I had to undergo an emergency Caesarian. I always look on the bright side, so I remember saying, “Well, at least she will have a round head.”
I am still amazed at the wave of emotions that washed over me when I held Lily for the first time. Suddenly, I knew that I would do everything in my power to provide my daughter with happiness, love and protection. I promised myself that I would nurture her to become the absolute best person she could become. When I looked at Lily, I felt a kind of love I had never felt. Nothing else mattered. I wanted to protect her from all the bad in this world, hold her forever, look at her face and inhale her baby smell. Life was perfect when I first held Lily. I had no idea of the coming storm.
Only three and a half months after Lily’s birth, I received the devastating diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. To make matters worse, my doctor said that if I did not start treatment immediately, I would only have fifteen months to live. In that moment, I was in complete shock. All I could think about was that I did not want to leave Cameron and Lily alone in the world. I could not focus on anything the doctor was saying. Thank goodness my husband was there to listen to the treatment options.
Cameron chose to go with the most aggressive form of treatment. Unfortunately, we had to go all the way to Boston for this treatment. One of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors took care of me. I underwent an extreme procedure where the doctors removed my left lung, the lining of my heart and the lining of my diaphragm.
I had to stay in the hospital to recover for eighteen days. After that, I stayed in a wonderful outpatient facility in Boston for two weeks. After that, I was happy to be out of medical facilities and spent two months recovering at my mother’s house in South Dakota. The whole time I was in the hospital and recovering, my mother cared for Lily. Finally, I returned home to Minnesota to begin chemotherapy and radiation.
Just like any mother, I chose to make the necessary sacrifices so I could be there for my Lily for many more years. In order achieve that goal; I had to sacrifice being there for Lily’s sixth month of life. It was so hard to be away from her for that time. Yet, it was Lily that gave me the courage to face my surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Even though mesothelioma is a type of cancer that kills almost ninety-five percent of those diagnosed, I successfully overcame my cancer. When I look at my journey through mesothelioma, I know that being a mother is what gave me the strength to fight this devastating cancer. Knowing that my little baby girl needed me for the rest of her life is what kept me going each day. So, it is true that my daughter Lily saved my life.
If you'd like to read more about Heather or contact her,
click here to be directed to Heather's Blog.
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