New parents hear the proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” quite often because it affirms the importance of strong community. After what I have been through, I have come to appreciate the true nature of that saying.
My daughter Lily was born healthy on August 4, 2005, after a mostly uneventful pregnancy. We were immediately surrounded by our “village,” which consisted of my parents, my husband’s family, and our friends. We were on top of the world- and thoroughly unprepared for the storm that was about to hit our family.
Within a month of returning to work full-time, I started feeling tired, breathless, and lethargic. At first I thought my body was adjusting to being a new mom, but after testing, we found out the true source of my symptoms. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer on November 21, 2005, just 3 ½ months after the birth of my Lily. This mesothelioma cancer occurs in the lung’s lining and is primarily caused by childhood exposure to asbestos.
My prognosis was not good. Without seeking treatment for mesothelioma, I would have fifteen months to live. I could only think of my daughter, Lily, and my husband being left without me. We had to do whatever it took to save my life. We took the most drastic treatment option offered and flew to Boston for surgery. On February 2, under the care of a top mesothelioma doctor, I underwent an extrapleural pneumenectomy, or the removal of my left lung. I spent 18 days in recovery at the hospital before months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Meanwhile, I was still a new mom and wanted the best for my Lily.
Thankfully, our village wanted the best for Lily as well. We were surrounded with love, support, and prayers. Our village consisted of loved ones, old and new. In Boston we met the most amazing people who were going through similar trials.
My parents stepped in to raise Lily in South Dakota during my recovery, and they, in turn, had their own village to show them support. Children I babysat as a teenager and childhood church friends, now grown with their own families, stepped in to help watch Lily. Every day, our villages proved over and over how important our community is.
Meanwhile, Lily was growing up. We were able to keep up with her milestones only through grainy emailed photos. Seeing her progress reaffirmed that she was the reason we had chosen such a drastic treatment for mesothelioma. She was in wonderful hands with my parents and their bond with her now runs deeper than we could ever have hoped for.
We know how fragile life is and have chosen to embrace all it has to offer. My favorite quote says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Cancer showed us how much good can come from such a bad diagnosis and I am so very thankful for that.
This post was submitted by Heather who has beaten the odds and is helping to educate and give hope to others. Than you Heather for sharing your story with us and good luck to you and your family.
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