The following is a guest post by Cameron Von St. James…
Caring for My Wife During Her Fight with Cancer
On November 21, 2005, my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. We will never forget that day, the day that our lives were changed forever. Just three months earlier, our only child, Lily, had been born. We had hoped that we would spend the upcoming Christmas together as a happy new family, but our happiness fell apart when Heather was diagnosed, and I became a caregiver in addition to a husband and father.
Things started changing before we even left the doctor’s office after Heather’s diagnosis. The doctor told us about mesothelioma and said we could choose treatment at a nearby university hospital, a reputable hospital in the region without a dedicated mesothelioma program, or a mesothelioma specialist named Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston. In what would be the first of many decisions I made during that time, I told the doctor that we were going to Boston.
In the following months, our daily lives changed dramatically. Previously, we had both held full-time jobs, but Heather couldn’t work after the diagnosis, and I switched to part-time so I could focus on making appointments, setting up travel to Boston and caring for our daughter. It wasn’t long before I was drained by the amount of work and number of decisions to be made. More than once, I crumpled onto the floor of the kitchen sobbing, wishing things were different. Fortunately, these moments of weakness were few and far between, and I never let Heather see me break down. I knew I had to be strong for her no matter what.
We were helped through that time by friends, family and even strangers. The financial help and emotional support was invaluable. Cancer patients and their caregivers should always take help from those who offer it during their time of need. Emotionally, this help is a powerful reminder of not being alone in the world.
Caring for someone with cancer is incredibly difficult. In the face of so much stress, you can never quit. Although you have to understand your emotions, you also have to manage them. No matter what, you have to stay hopeful and use your resources to get through this.
After Heather dealt with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, she miraculously survived mesothelioma. Now, seven years later, she’s still free of cancer.
Learning how to handle stress and manage time effectively during Heather’s fight with cancer prepared me for many more obstacles in life. Two years later, I returned to school to get my degree. When I graduated with honors, I was my class speaker. During my speech, I told everyone how five years earlier, I never would have thought I’d be there. Above all, we have to remember that we can overcome if we keep our hope and believe that we can accomplish anything.