Monday, May 13, 2013

Keep Hope Alive - Guest Post by Cameron Von St. James

This week I'm running a guest post from Cameron Von St. James. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did. And for those of you who are interested in more information about caregiving, I would like to recommend this valuable website


I will never forget the day that my wife was diagnosed with cancer. From the very moment that the words "malignant pleural mesothelioma" escaped our doctor's lips, I knew my life would be forever changed. That day, November 21, 2005, was the day that I became a caregiver for a cancer patient. To say I was unprepared for the job is an understatement. Three months before her diagnosis, we became proud first-time parents to our daughter Lily. While we had envisioned the next few months as a joyful time in which we prepared for Lily’s first Christmas, instead our world took a dark turn, and we began a difficult fight for Heather’s life.

The emotional implications of caring for someone with cancer are unimaginable. Before we had ever left the doctor’s office, we were urged to visit a specialist to discuss treatment options. We were offered three choices: a great regional hospital that did not have a mesothelioma program, a local university hospital and a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. I looked at my beautiful wife and it was clear that she was terrified and completely in shock, and I knew she needed help. She looked at me, her eyes desperate and pleading. Without a moment of hesitation, I made the decision that we would visit Boston and seek help from the specialist we had been told about.

The next two months were a blur. The diagnosis interrupted our daily routine. My wife and I had both been working full time before she was diagnosed. After, however, she was unable to work and I was only able to work part time while caring for her, taking her to doctor’s appointments and constantly making travel and childcare arrangements. The list of things to do seemed never ending. My worries that we would spend all of our money and lose all of our possessions while fighting her cancer were overpowered only by the bone-chilling fear that my wife could die. On several occasions, I felt myself near a meltdown but I kept telling myself that I had to be strong for Heather. In the end, my determination to be strong for my wife always outweighed my fear.

Caring for someone with cancer is difficult and it was only the generous love and support from friends, family and complete strangers that made our journey bearable. We can never express our gratitude enough to those who helped us through this difficult time. If I can offer anything to fellow caregivers of cancer patients, I urge you to accept help when it is offered. It leaves you with less to worry over and reminds you that people care about you. Don’t mistake accepting help as a sign of weakness; it is actually a sign of great strength!

After months of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Heather successfully beat the disease and became cancer free, despite the grim odds we were given initially. This experience reminded me how precious time is, which is why I returned to school as a full time student studying Information Technology two years after Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis. After learning to manage stress and properly handle my time while fighting cancer with my wife, I was able to apply those skills learned through hardship to my studies. As a result, I graduated at the top of my class and was designated as class speaker. Before my wife’s diagnosis, I would have never guessed that I would be living my dream. I have learned that we should never give up hope that we can become more than we ever imagined. If you or a loved one are currently fighting cancer, don’t give up. There is always hope, as along as you continue to fight for the ones you love.

Below is a link that should be helpful.

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