I have come into contact with an amazing woman who has been sharing her story of surviving a brutal form of cancer.
Can you imagine being a brand new mom and getting a diagnosis like this. Her attitude is one that hopefully is contagious.
Please meet HEATHER VON ST JAMES
If you ask anyone who knows me well, they would tell you that I am an optimist. I've been optimistic throughout my life. Whether I was having a good day or a terrible day, I could almost always find a way to keep smiling and make others around me smile as well. However, my optimism would be severely tested when I turned 36. The year started out to be the happiest year of my life, thanks to the birth of my beautiful baby girl. Three and a half months after her birth, I received my shocking cancer diagnosis.
On November 21, 2005, I found out that I had a deadly form of cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma. Hearing the phrase "You have cancer" was truly surreal. No one can ever be prepared for cancer, and my diagnosis was unexpected and shocking. At first, my body froze and I felt numb. However, I soon realized that I had a choice to make in this process. Was I going to blame God and become bitter, or could I make the decision to fight with courage and optimism? I looked into my baby girl's face and instantly knew that I had to fight this disease with everything that I had. I summoned my inner strength and proceeded with hope.
It probably sounds like a strange thing to say, but so many good things have happened as a result of my cancer. There have been dark days in this journey, but the down times have given me valuable life lessons that have changed me as a person. I met other patients who seemed to have no hope, so I determined that I would find a way to encourage and uplift other patients. This goal gave me a sense of purpose on my hardest days. My incredible physician contributed to my positive attitude. Since he was the world's leading mesothelioma doctor, I was confident that my treatment would be successful. My surgeon scheduled my tumor removal operation for Groundhog's Day in 2006. My tumor quickly became known as Punxsutawney Phil thanks to my surgery date! In fact, we also renamed Groundhog's Day, and now call it Lungleavin Day, since that was the day my lung was removed. My family celebrates Lungleavin Day every year. During this special party, we remember all the gifts we have been given through this cancer journey. It reminds us to choose hope and believe in the power of optimism.
My greatest gifts throughout this cancer process are the wonderful friends that I have made. I cannot imagine my life without these incredible people. We have laughed together and cried together, and now we work together to spread awareness for the disease that has affected each of us and our families.