A story shared by: Cameron Von St. James “How My Family Coped With Cancer Over The Holidays”
December 26, 2012
For me, the holidays are special time to celebrate with family and give thanks for all of our blessings. I especially looked forward to the holidays in 2005, the year that my wife and I celebrated the birth of our new daughter Lily. We couldn’t wait to share our holiday traditions with Lily, and we talked endlessly about how we would celebrate her first Christmas. However, our happiness and excitement was soon stripped away from us, when three days before Thanksgiving my wife, Heather was diagnosed with cancer.
Lily was only three and a half months old when my wife was diagnosed. In a single afternoon, we went from planning for the holidays to trying to fight cancer. We learned that my wife had been diagnosed with a rare and very deadly form of cancer called pleural mesothelioma. What little I knew about mesothelioma was enough for me to know that our once bright future was now very uncertain. I tried to remain positive, but all I could picture was the worst case scenario, and that year I felt that I had very little to be thankful for.
Despite all of bad news, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with Heather’s family. We made plans about what we would do and what Heather’s family would do to help Heather before we headed into Boston for treatment. The memory of this discussion with Heather’s family is etched into my brain. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
We discussed our finances, assets, debts and Lily’s childcare. I listened to the discussion of our bills and finances. Heather’s family told us how they would help us financially, but we had to determine which assets we could liquidate. Heather and I both worked, but with the new baby and the looming treatment and travel requirements, money was very tight. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to stay afloat without help. Heather’s family offered to help as much as they could, but all I could feel was shame and embarrassment. This wasn’t how I anticipated spending Thanksgiving. Looking back now, all these years later, I realize how very much I had to be thankful for, but at the time, all I could feel was despair.
While I was sitting at the table ashamed and overwhelmed, I failed to realize that I was surrounded by family who loved me and would do anything to help me at a moment’s notice. They dropped everything to be by our sides through this crisis, and were willing to make huge sacrifices of their own to help us through. Now I can see how lucky we were, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who extended us a helping hand during that time.
Because of this, I wanted to take a moment to remember everything I have to be thankful for in my life. I am thankful for the kindness and love bestowed up on me by my family and friends. I am thankful for a healthy daughter and other people who have helped us when we needed it. Most of all, I am thankful for my wife’s unlikely recovery. It’s been seven Christmases since Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and it was in large part due to the love and support of our family and friends that we were able to make it through. We hope and expect to have many more Christmases to celebrate together as a family. We want our story to be a source of hope and inspiration to others fighting cancer this holiday season.