Guest Post: Surviving Mesothelioma Cancer

Hi friends!  Today I have a guest post from Mesothelioma cancer survivor, Heather Von St. James.  Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and in this post Heather shares her story and explains the facts about asbestos, which were surprising to me.  As an investor, this information is critical as we inspect or renovate a house.  But her story also touches on something I deal with as well: fear.  Learning to face fears, seek community and find hope is something all humans must do, especially if you are trying to overcome an obstacle.  I encourage you to head over to Heather’s blog to hear more about her story.  She is inspiring!

Surviving Mesothelioma Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is one of the scariest things that anyone can deal with, and I first heard those words when my life was going perfectly. I had an adorable 3-month old baby, and suddenly, I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer which was typically caused by exposure to asbestos.

I was confused when I first heard it, as were the people around me. I thought it was banned, and no one understood how I could have gotten exposed. The truth of the matter is that asbestos is not banned, and I had received secondary exposure through my father. Asbestos fibers were clinging to my father’s clothing when he came home from his construction job, especially his jacket which I wore outside frequently.

Construction sites aren’t the only place asbestos is found. Asbestos is commonly found in old homes. Some of the most common places for asbestos to be found in a home is in the ceiling, floor, roofing, and siding. Before you completely renovate your home, you should always have an inspector come to check if your walls, ceiling, or any other area of your home contain asbestos. That way, you know if you need to take special precautions when renovating. If you do have asbestos in your home, you should contact a professional to remove it, keeping you and your family safe from any possible exposure.

I was 36 when I was diagnosed; the Mayo Clinic had only heard of one other case with such a young victim. Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer are older, male, and have worked for years in a trade like plumbing, heating, or electrical engineering. These people have received primary exposure, but then there are their wives. Their wives did their laundry, shaking out the fibers into the air. There were also women who had worked in schools where asbestos was often used. These victims of secondary exposure were just coming out of the woodwork, and instead of being an anomaly; I was at the start of a disturbing new trend. There are now more and more young people who are being diagnosed with this disease, and they are not alone.

The more time I spend in the mesothelioma community, the more I hear these stories, and the more young patients I know. Age is no defense; I’ve seen women and men in their twenties and their thirties who are just starting their lives and are afflicted with this disease. It brings them to a crashing halt, and suddenly all of their resources are spent trying to beat this insidious issue.

There is hope, however. Science is advancing every day, and there are more and more survivors from all walks of life.

A cancer diagnosis often feels as if it is the end of the world. I know I felt that way when I first got my diagnosis. However, there is also hope. I have continued to hang on to my hope and to find home in the community. The mesothelioma community is a diverse one, and it is a place to share, to help others, to weep and to celebrate.

I share my story over and over again to make sure that people know that there is hope. Awareness is key! Check out this short video for an explanation of what exactly mesothelioma is: What is Mesothelioma?

Thanks  to Heather for sharing with us.  And again, to hear more of her story or about mesothelioma cancer, visit her blog:


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Filed under Fear, Inspections

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