What does it mean to be a village? There are plenty of people who think that they know what a village is, but I never figured it out until my daughter was born. On August 4th, 2005, my beautiful daughter entered the lives of my husband and me. After a fairly easy pregnancy, we had our daughter and friends and family surrounded us. Things were perfect, and we had no idea of what was to come.
I started noticing that things were wrong about a month after I got back to work. I was tired all the time, and I couldn’t seem to take a full breath. While a lot of this could be chalked up to having a newborn at home, I knew that something else was wrong. On November 21, 2005, my worst fears were confirmed.
After accidental asbestos exposure 30 years ago, I now had malignant pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that attacked the lungs. All of my symptoms pointed towards mesothelioma as the culprit, and without treatment, I had about 15 months to live.
When I looked at my husband and my daughter, I knew that I had to fight. I could not give in, and with my family’s full support behind me, we opted for one of the most drastic mesothelioma treatment options possible. My husband and I flew to Boston, and on February 2nd. I had a lung removed in a process called extrapleural pneumenectomy. After that, I had a hospital stay of 18 days, and then two months later, I started chemotherapy and radiation.
This would not have been possible with my parents stepping in. They took Lily while I was in the hospital, and they did it happily. They worked full time, and when they couldn’t be with Lily, they left her with their church group, and also with girls who I had once babysat for.
Cancer’s funny in many ways. Some of the people that I knew we could rely on fled, and other people who I would have said barely cared that we were alive stepped in to take their place. Both in South Dakota and in Boston, we had so many friends who saw us through this dark time. Even when I was mourning losing the first few months of my little girl’s life, my parents kept me updated via email whenever possible. It was not easy, but one of the things that kept me going was the sheer love that surrounded me and my daughter and my husband, even when things looked their blackest.
Mesothelioma treatment was one of the darkest times in my life, but it taught me so much. It only reinforced my belief that life is a banquet and most of the poor suckers are just starving to death. Even when times were at their worst, I had plenty to “eat,” and my family and friends never stopped surprising me.
Recovering from cancer nearly took everything out of me, but it taught me so much about this village that supports me.
This was a guest post written by Heather. You can read more from her on her blog The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.