What I love about this year is that I’m not only focusing on my own journey but I am giving the floor to others who are survivors to tell their story and share the many ways in which they’ve learned to heal and live as a survivor. Today I am highlighting not a survivor of abuse but a survivor of lung cancer. Heather Von St. James decided to come up with a creative way to get rid of her fears in facing the cancer and to help others smash fear!
Having a sense of humor can be a great coping mechanism when dealing with a trying time in your life. It is an attribute that my wife Heather and I relied on when we faced the most difficult time of our lives. In November 2005, we got the bad news that Heather had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just three short months after giving birth to our daughter Lily. In order to increase her chances of survival, we knew we needed to act immediately. Heather became a candidate for a risky surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy and had her lung, one of her ribs and half of her diaphragm removed on February 2nd, 2006. Heather’s sister and I decided we should celebrate this day that changed our lives forever. Soon after, we began to call February 2, LungLeavin’ Day– the day Heather’s lung left her.
I can remember sitting in the doctor’s office, appointment after appointment, afraid to make plans very far into the future. Once I realized what I had control over and what I did not, living with an uncertain future became easier. I also told myself to never look back and question any choices I had made. I would make the best decision with the information I had at the time and always move forward.
One year after Heather’s surgery, I went out and purchased two plates and a sharpie. On that cold February night, we wrote our fears on these plates, headed outside, and threw them into the fire pit together. We found this plate smashing to be liberating and felt we should extend this experience to include family and friends. Eight years later, this event has grown to include over 75 friends and family members! After all, we’re all afraid of something. Our fears could be public speaking or spiders it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not we are able to overcome our fears and move forward.
This year, Heather celebrated 8 years of being cancer free. It is our mission, along with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to spread awareness of mesothelioma in hopes we can prevent this from happening to another family. We hope you will join us in smashing one of your biggest fears into the fire! http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday
Proud of Heather and finding a way to survive with ‘flare’. 😉 If YOU have a story of survival to share and how God has SHOWN UP in your life to offer Hope and Courage to survive please consider sharing it with us! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org