In recognition of Mesothelioma 10th Annual Awareness Day on September 26th, 2014, today we are sharing the story of one of the many survivors of this dreadful form of cancer called Mesothelioma. Her name is Heather Von St. James. Her story is one of courage and it brings hope and encouragement to many others.
Whether you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are a survivor or, you know someone who is currently suffering with the disease, Heather’s story is sure to inspire you, and raise your level of faith to believe that you or your loved one will receive total healing as well.
Heather Von St. James’ Story of Surviving Mesothelioma
In 2005 at the very young age of 36, and only 3 1/2 months after giving birth to her beautiful daughter Lily Rose, Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. As if that was not enough of a shock to her, she was told that she had just 15 months to live, unless that is, she took drastic measures.
Although her husband Cameron was by her side every step of the way, it became an uphill battle for both of them as they embarked on a search to find the best treatment and care available.
They were eventually led to Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned mesothelioma surgeon at the Boston Based Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The doctor recommended a fairly new surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Like any other groundbreaking treatment, there were risks involved. But with the support of her husband and family members, the major surgical procedure was done, followed by chemotherapy treatment. Miraculously, she was given a second chance to live despite losing one of her lungs, a rib and a half of a diaphragm.
It’s been 8 years ago now but Heather has made it her lifelong mission to become a patient advocate and is passionate about spreading awareness about the disease and the dangers of asbestos.
What is Mesothelioma?
Cancer in any form is a very scary thing and it affects families in many ways. Mesothelioma or more precisely, malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the cells of the mesothelium and affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. It is very aggressive in nature.
Causes of Mesothelioma
The primary causes of mesothelioma are
- exposure to asbestos – fibers inhaled through the nose and mouth that eventually become embedded in the lining of the lungs
- swallowing asbestos fibers – this contributes to a form of malignancy originating in the abdomen known as peritoneal mesothelioma
- occupational asbestos exposure
- environmental exposure – second hand exposure from a family worker’s soiled clothes
Less Common Risk Factors
It has been determined that exposure to asbestos is among the leading risk factors that causes mesothelioma. The less common risk factors associated with it are:
- There is no causal relationship with smoking and mesothelioma but smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at a much higher risk (50-90%) of developing the disease
- Exposure to certain types of radiation
- Zeolite – a silica based mineral similar to asbestos
- Simian Virus 40 (SV40)
- Erionite exposure – naturally occuring mineral with properties that are similar to asbestos.
What You Need to Know about Asbestos
Asbestos is an insulating material comprised of magnesium-silicate mineral fibers. For many years, it’s been a favorite construction material used by builders and contractors because of its low heat conductivity and resistance to melting and burning.
It can still be found in many homes, schools and commercial or industrial buildings. It is invisible to the naked eye and any amount of exposure can be harmful to your health.
More Facts about Mesothelioma [Info graphic]
- 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used in the U.S. each year. (Source: EWG Action Fund)
- Asbestos is still the #1 cause of occupational cancer, causing 54% of those deaths. (Source: Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization)
- Since 1979, more than 43,000 Americans have died of asbestos-related diseases (Source: EWG Action Fund)
Source for infographic