Cameron Von St. James
Being a New Parent With Cancer
Having a baby is a joyous occasion for anyone, and when my wife Heather and I welcomed our little Lily into the world in the summer of 2005, we were ecstatic. Little did we know then that just three months later, we would be thrown into a nightmarish whirlwind of cancer treatments as Heather struggled to overcome an aggressive form of the disease, Mesothelioma
It wasn't easy. All of the challenges that come with adjusting to parenthood were amplified because we were so short on time and resources. Heather had to leave her job, and I needed to take considerable time off in order to care for her and Lily. Meanwhile, there were sleepless nights worrying about my family’s future. I needed to take care of both my wife and my daughter, and Heather needed to remain close to her little girl despite her own pain.
All we could do was our best, and while we struggled, there were wonderful moments every day as we watched our daughter grow and cherished Heather's small triumphs. We were able to be together more because Heather needed me so much, and that brought all three of us closer together. While I wish that she had not needed to go through the pain and fear of that experience, I am thankful for the sense of intimacy that this period fostered. It showed us that we could tackle any challenge that would come our way.
It also demonstrated to us that it really does take a village to raise a child, as well as to fight a dangerous disease. Neither of us could have done it alone. We had a veritable army of babysitters, meal providers and just general helpers who were there for the three of us when we needed it most. We learned who our real friends were and came to rely on their kindness, setting aside our pride for the sake of what needed to be done. I know that both of us would happily do the same if one of those friends were in need.
Being a cancer caregiver is hard, and I had to learn fast with the added pressure of a new baby in the midst of our cancer battle. If you are a cancer caregiver, I hope you can take a few lessons from someone who has been there before. Take all the help you can get, and don’t let your pride get in the way. Allow yourself to have bad days, this is inevitable with the amount of stress and fear you’ll likely experience, but always remember to never, ever give up hope.
Thankfully, not everyone will face the kinds of challenges we did, but every family must deal with unexpected hurdles. Don't let them discourage you. Life is a beautiful gift, so embrace it together.
After months of extensive mesothelioma treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Heather was able to defy the odds and beat her cancer. She has been cancer free for seven years. She is the strongest person I know, and I’m so thankful to be able to spend everyday with her. After making it through this terrible battle, we now hope that by sharing our experiences, we can help inspire others currently going through a similar battle. Never give up hope, and always keep fighting for the ones you love.
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Cameron Von St. James