Thursday, January 24, 2013

[GuestPost] My Fight with Mesothelioma

In any life, there are periods of having to rely on others for all of one's needs. When I was 36 years old, I needed all the help my loved ones had to give. My family, my husband's family and all our friends gathered around use when I gave birth to our daughter, Lily, on August 4th, 2005. Everything was going well, and I never could have expected the hardships to come.

I went back to my full-time job soon after Lily was born, but my health suddenly worsened. I started losing five to seven pounds per week, and I felt fatigued and out of breath all the time. I thought it might have been related to being a new mother, but to be safe, I went to a doctor. Lots of tests were run until we found what was wrong.

It was November 21, 2005, only 3 1/2 months after I gave birth to my daughter, when doctors diagnosed me with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and is usually caused by asbestos exposure. Without knowing it, I had apparently been exposed to asbestos when I was only a child.

Doctors said I would die after only 15 months without treatment. After considering my husband and daughter, I knew that we had to fight the cancer.

Because of the seriousness of mesothelioma, we chose to visit Boston to receive care from one of the top mesothelioma specialists. I was given surgery, known as extrapleural pneumonectomy, on February 2nd, 2006. This involved removing my left lung, and I recovered for 18 days afterward and then two months before beginning chemotherapy and radiation.

My parents took care of Lily in South Dakota while I was in Boston. It was a challenge for them, but they had plenty of people there to help. Friends and relatives I had grown up with supported my parents throughout this time. Meanwhile, I made friends in Boston with fellow patients, and we supported each other every day.

At my parents' house, Lily was beginning to eat solid food and move around on the floor. At the hospital, I showed the nurses pictures my mom emailed me as we all held back the tears. My baby was the reason I was continuing to fight during this time.

My daughter and her grandparents still have a strong bond to this day, even with the physical distance between them and the time between seeing each other.

As a family, we try to value life as much as possible because we know how easily it can be broken.

To everybody suffering from mesothelioma, or any cancer, my recommendation is to accept all that life gives you. While cancer is destructive, it can also be a gift. Since I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, life has gained lots of value for which I'm really grateful.

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