Friday, March 8, 2013

Facing cancer with family

The following post was written by Cameron Von St James. His blog address is Cameron Von St. James  I can relate to what he has written as my father passed away from cancer and my mother has had several occurrences of cancer. It changes your life; you make sacrifices and gather strength wherever you can. I wish I could say that those were the only people I knew affected by this disease but sadly it isn't. I hope you take the time to read what Cameron has written and look at his blog and hear his story. It is of comfort to those who are newly diagnosed or family thereof. My thoughts and prayers are with Cameron, Heather and Lily. I ask that you remember his family, my family and the many friends I have who are dealing with cancer.

Facing Cancer with my Family

My wife has told me more than once that she doesn’t really know how I felt and what I went through when she was diagnosed with cancer. I hope I can explain it to her a little more clearly with my words here, and provide some insight for all those who are currently battling cancer, as well as their caregivers.

Our daughter was born only three months before Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Lily had brought so many happy moments and so much joy into our lives, but Heather’s diagnosis took that all away in an instant.  When we heard the word cancer, Heather cried.  I tried to comfort her, but I couldn’t stop wondering how we would get through this.

It was hard for me to get control of my overwhelming flood of emotions. I was so angry at first that I frequently lashed out with angry outbursts of profanity. It was wrong, and I knew it had to stop. I realized that my wife and daughter were counting on me to support them through this, and that the last thing they needed was to see just how scared I really was.  From that point forward I did my very best at all times to be nothing but a source of hope and optimism in my family’s eyes.

In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done. I knew I wasn’t able to work, make all the necessary travel arrangements, and care for my wife and family and home all by myself, so I learned to start accepting help that was offered by our friends and family. I was still overwhelmed, but between the generous offers of help from those who reached out to us, and my gradually learning to prioritize and organize my to-do list, we managed to survive.

Following Heather’s mesothelioma surgery in Boston, she and Lily spent two months in South Dakota with Heather’s parents. I had to work and couldn’t provide Heather with the care she needed to recover. We knew her parents could do that for her so she’d be able to recover and prepare herself for the start of her chemotherapy and radiation. I missed them terribly, and I was only able to see them once in the two months they were gone. This was by far the hardest part of the whole experience for me, but I don’t regret our decision. We were very lucky to be in the position to even make it, and for that we are very thankful.

One Friday night after work, I drove 11 hours through a snowstorm to see my family. I was exhausted when I arrived, and I had to make the same drive the day after I got there, as I couldn’t miss work on Monday morning.  It was a lot of difficult travel for just a few precious hours with them, but it was worth every second. It was not an easy time for my family, but we learned a lot from it.

Heather has been cancer free and healthy for over six years now, despite the odds against her. I still think about what I learned during this time. What I think about most is how important it was for me to accept the offers of help our friends and family gave to us. It made all the difference. We also learned to never regret any of the tough choices that cancer forced us to make.  Instead, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we retained the ability to make choices at all. I hope that this story of our experiences can be a source of hope and comfort for families currently struggling through cancer. ~Cameron Von St. James

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