Today I stand back to let someone who battled–and won!–against the cancer demon tell you his story. My reasons for doing so is because too often we look at cancer as a death sentence these days. The very word inspires fear and misinformation in many people, and for good reason. In year’s past, cancer has been a silent killer and mis-informer. But because of the internet, we can learn about this sometimes elusive disease and learn to live with it. And sometimes it puts us in touch with others who are currently waging the same war.
One Husband’s Tale of Caring for His Ill Wife
Copyright 2013 Cameron Von St. James. Reprinted with permission.
My wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. We will never be able to erase that day from our memories. On that day, it fell to me to be my wife’s caregiver. I can’t say that I was prepared to care for someone who had been diagnosed with cancer, but I knew I had to learn fast. Three months prior to the diagnosis, we celebrated the birth of our only child Lily. We were anticipating enjoying the holidays with our newborn baby daughter, but our lives and our plans changed drastically the instant we got the news.
While we were at the doctor’s office on that fateful day, we learned more about mesothelioma. My wife would need special treatment, and we could receive it from the university hospital in our area, a regional hospital that provided great care, but was lacking a program for mesothelioma, or a specialist in Boston by the name of Dr. David Sugarbaker. I waited for my wife to speak up first, but she didn’t. The look on her face told me she needed me to make this decision for us, so I chose Boston. This was just the first of many times that we would be required to make impossible decisions in the face of emotional turmoil.
In the next two months, our lives changed drastically. Heather stopped working, and I was only able to work part-time. I also had the extra duties of taking care of Heather and the baby as well as being responsible for all of our travel arrangements and doctors appointments. I had so much to do, and the stress was overwhelming. In the middle of it all, I constantly imagined losing my wife and becoming a homeless broke widower with a child to raise. These thoughts often sent me to the floor in tears, but these moments did not last. My wife needed me to be strong, and as difficult as it was, I never allowed her to see me in my moments of weakness.
Luckily, we had some incredible people helping us through this time. Our families, our friends and even people we did not know lent us a helping hand. We received monetary assistance as well as a shoulder to cry on when we needed it. It would be impossible to adequately thank everyone who was there for us during this time. If I could only give people in this situation one piece of advice, it would be this: If people offer to help you in any way, allow them to do so. Even if it is only a small thing that they are taking off of your hands, it will be one less thing you have to worry about. It also reminds you that you have someone who cares. Don’t let pride get in the way.
Heather underwent extreme and radical mesothelioma treatment under the care of Dr. Sugarbaker over the following months, and against all odds, she beat her cancer and remains healthy and strong to this day. It is our hope that our story of triumph over cancer can be a source of inspiration to all those currently battling disease today.