Thursday, December 6, 2012

Important Guest Post by Heather Von St. James

I was approached by Heather herself, asking if I would help spread mesothelioma awareness by sharing her written story. Heather is a mom like me (you can see her beautiful daughter pictured below) so her story really touched me.  As i've shared before, I lost my own mom to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was only 18 (she was diagnosed when I was 11).  I hope that you will read her story and help spread the word. This could happen to any of us.  You can read more about Heather here:  Thank you :)
“You have cancer.” Let me tell you from experience that these are three words that strike fear into your very core. When I heard these words, my baby had just been born three and one-half months prior to my pleural mesothelioma cancer diagnosis. The first thing I am most often asked when people find out I had mesothelioma is, “Asbestos? Are you sure? Isn’t that banned?” The second question I am most often asked is, “Where were you exposed?”

Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not banned. I was exposed through my father’s work clothes. He worked in construction, and he would come home covered in white dust or microscopic asbestos fibers. The dust was often found in his car, on his clothes and on his jacket after he finished a full day’s work of mudding, sanding and drywall taping.

Having mesothelioma at the age of 36 was not typical. A typical mesothelioma patient is usually an older male who works in trades. Common trades with asbestos exposure include heating, plumbing, car repair, military and electrical technician. When the wives began to get sick, experts knew it was possible to be exposed from washing clothes. Most women would shake out the dust from the dirty clothes. The asbestos went airborne and was inhaled from the simple act of putting the asbestos-laden clothes in the washer.

I was one of the first of the new generation of mesothelioma victims. There were numerous younger people being diagnosed with mesothelioma after I was diagnosed. These men and women are now in their twenties and early thirties, but they were exposed when they were kids. They were exposed when they jumped into their dad’s arms after a long day’s work. Doing something as simple as wearing their father’s jackets when feeding the rabbits outside also exposed children. Like me, many made this practice a habit to keep their jackets from being dirty.

The young men and women who were exposed when they were kids should be having babies, getting married and celebrating new jobs, instead they are focused on alleviating the symptoms of mesothelioma. Luckily, there are more advancements being made in mesothelioma treatment, and now, more people are surviving.

A mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating. You cannot imagine until you experience it, but you have to hold out hope for better treatment. In the meantime, we have support groups to come together and support each other through tears and excitement.

So, why do I continue to do what I do? I do it because there needs to be more awareness. Without awareness, nothing changes.  If my story can help to change someone’s life, then I have done what is right.


  1. Heart wrenching story but also a story of hope and strength. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read it.

  2. thank you for posting this - clearly this story needs to get out there! I had no idea, but now can see how simple it would be to infect the ones you love. So horribly sad! I wish Heather every happiness, and she looks like she has a beautiful loving family of her own

  3. Wow! That is scary. She looks great, hopefully she has kicked that cancer goodbye.

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