As caregiver for wife with mesothelioma.
Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin cell wall lining of the body’s internal organs and structures.
Cameron Von St. James, my personal experience as a caregiver for wife with mesothelioma.
Fighting Alongside my Wife Through Cancer
There aren’t many words that can describe what I went through when my wife was diagnosed with cancer. I remember feeling helpless as my wife and I sat in the doctor’s office as he informed us that she had mesothelioma. Heather cried when we heard, and all I could think was “How are we going to make it through this?”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what my wife and I went through three months after welcoming our first and only child, a little girl who we named Lily, into the world. We were so happy and so overjoyed, but those blissful feelings were stripped away from us in an instant when we heard her doctor’s words. I was on the verge of breaking down right there myself, but the doctor’s immediate questions about my wife’s future medical care brought me back to reality, and I new we would fight this. However, it took me much longer to really master my emotions for good.
I was angry at the world for putting my family through this, and I frequently vented my anger on others with outbursts of profanity. I knew it was wrong, and I knew I needed to get it together, but it was so hard. However, after a while I began to realize how selfish I was being. It dawned on me that as scared as I was, I knew it must be much worse for my wife, and the last thing she needed was to see my fear. From that point forward I did my very best at all times to be nothing but a source of hope and optimism for my family.
I was still so overwhelmed with all that I had to do, as my wife’s diagnosis caused me to inherit a whole new list of responsibilities. Work, travel arrangements for medical treatments, taking care of Heather, taking care of our newborn, caring for our home, and caring for our pets were just some of the many tasks that I had to complete on a daily basis. Fortunately, I was able to get it together, start accepting help from others, and start prioritizing, and it made all the difference. I am still grateful to our wonderful friends and family for offering so much help to us in our time of need.
The hardest part of all was when Heather spent two months in South Dakota with Lily. This happened immediately after Heather’s mesothelioma surgery in Boston. We had sent Lily to stay with Heather’s parents in South Dakota during the operation, and following the surgery Heather flew out there to join her. She needed constant care while she recovered and prepared for further treatment, and we both knew that I could not provide that while working full time. It wasn’t an easy decision to be apart from my family for so long, but it was the best one for us at the time. In the whole two months we were apart, I was able to see them only once.
I left work on a Friday night and drove 11 hours to see them. The snow was horrible and slowed me down even more, and I was exhausted when I finally made it to my in-laws house to see my wife and daughter. However, I couldn’t have been happier to spend the next day and a half with my family, before I had to make the trip home the following day so that I could be at work Monday morning.
It was a hard time for us. However, despite its difficulties, I took a lot of valuable lessons from this time in our lives. The most important lesson I learned is the importance of a loving and supportive community. I am so blessed to have such great friends and family members. We also learned to never regret or second guess any of the tough decisions that cancer forced us to make. Rather, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we retained the ability to make choices at all. It’s been more than six years now, and Heather is healthy and cancer-free. She beat her malignant pleural mesothelioma, despite the odds stacked against her. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and comfort to families currently battling cancer together now.
Cameron Von St. James
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
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