Today I would like to welcome Heather to the blog. Her story is beautiful and must be shared. I hope you all find it as inspiring and heartwarming as I did.
Heather, you are so strong and I am so grateful you chose my blog to share your story. Your family is so insanely beautiful and your story is even more so. Cancer has nothing against your strength. Nothing. It means so much to me to have you with us today.
If you were to ask my seven-year-old daughter about my struggle with cancer, she would tell you the same thing, "I saved my mommy's life." Her response is automatic now, such as if she were expressing her hunger or a stomachache. She knows she saved my life, and she says it without needing to think twice. Some may not take her words seriously, while others simply do not understand the value of truth behind her statement. I will be the first to say how true her words are.
Seven years into our marriage my husband, Cameron, and I considered having children. Being 35 years old, I was nervous that we would be unable to conceive due to my age, and I was unsure about how long it would really take to get pregnant. Within three months of making our life-changing decision, we confirmed our blessed news after three pregnancy tests! Cameron and I were going to have a baby! As all new mothers understand, several feelings – shock, nerves, and excitement – ensued at the same moment. My new role in life was to be a mother! Looking back on that time, it's funny to think about just how quickly I fell into a mother's role. I found myself constantly rubbing my stomach, growing excited with the knowledge that new life was growing and being nurtured within me. Thousands of questions rampaged through my thoughts. What type of mother would I be? Would I be fun, strict, or cool? Maybe I would be all three. The only thing I knew was that my whole desire was to be a good mother.
After experiencing such a smooth pregnancy, I would have been thrilled to be pregnant 10 more times! The only hiccup was that our baby, Lily, was breech, and the doctor said I would need an emergency C-section. I will always remember my response, "At least she will have a round head." I always wanted to see the positive in hard situations. It still overwhelms me when I think about the surge of emotion that filled me when I was finally able to hold my little girl. At that very second, I knew I would willingly accomplish anything to show her happiness, love, and protection. My sole desire was to nurture, teach, and coach her to reach her full potential, while offering her the love I never felt before I held her in my arms. With her bundled in my arms, nothing else mattered. My life was hers. In that moment, my life was so perfect that I would never have guessed a storm was looming just around the corner.
Within 3 ½ months of Lily being born, life changed once again for us, but this time our happy life turned into a nightmare when the doctor diagnosed me with malignant pleural mesothelioma. If that was not bad enough, the doctor explained that I would need to start treatment immediately; otherwise, my life could end within 15 months. In those moments following the diagnosis, my husband was my savior. I was unable to move as immeasurable shock overwhelmed me. All I could think about was Lily, and the thought of leaving Cameron and her behind without me to care for them seemed unfathomable. As these thoughts swirled through my mind, Cameron remained calm and listened to the treatment options, making the tough decision to travel to Boston and meet with one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the world. Treatment meant that I would have to undergo an extreme procedure, resulting in the removal of my heart's lining, left lung, and lining of my diaphragm. After spending 18 days recovering in the hospital, I spent two weeks in one of Boston's outpatient facilities and another two months in South Dakota at my parents' home where Lily was currently staying. Finally, I was able to return to our home in Minnesota where I began radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
Just as other mothers would, I had to sacrifice things in order to be there for Lily as she grew up. I gave up the opportunity to see my little girl turn six months old, which was excruciatingly difficult, as I had to miss a whole month of my baby's life. However, my sweet little girl needed me to survive this nightmare. Lily provided me with the courage to face the unknown and the strength to undergo life-threatening surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma kills an estimated 95 percent of diagnosed victims. While looking back at my struggle with cancer, I discovered that being a mother provided me with the strength to continue fighting. The knowledge that my baby needed me to guide her through life kept me fighting each day, so my Lily tells the whole truth when she says, "I saved my mommy's life."
Bless your hearts Heather, Cameron and and Lily.