I would like to introduce myself, my name is Lindsay Beckmeyer and I am the new Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator here at Living Beyond Breast Cancer! Going forward I will be managing the LBBC blogs and I’m very excited to share the stories we receive with all of you! That being said, Cameron Von St. James is an avid reader of our C4YW blog and he approached me about writing a piece to share his experience as caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2005. While we focus on breast cancer, I felt that Cameron’s story would be appropriate to share for our readers who are currently in the position of caregiver because no matter the specific diagnosis the role of caregiver can be quite similar. Here is Cameron’s story…
It’s hard to realize just how much cancer can change your world until your own family is confronted with a diagnosis. My wife Heather and I were proud parents of a new daughter, Lily, and we weren’t prepared to receive the news that Heather had mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. I was now a caregiver to my wife and daughter, a job that I had not been prepared for by anything else in my life to that point. It felt like chaos was setting in.
As our doctor discussed the disease with us, he provided us with some choices for treatment. We would need to see a specialist, and we could opt for a local university hospital, a regional facility that didn’t yet have a good mesothelioma program, or a reputable specialist in Boston. The disbelief in my wife’s face was heartbreaking, and as I looked at her and waited for some sign of interest in any of the three choices, I realized that she was paralyzed by shock and fear. I told our doctor, “Get us to Boston!”
Our next two months were rough. The familiarity of our daily routines was gone as we devoted all of our attention to Heather’s medical needs. She couldn’t work after the diagnosis, and we had both been accustomed to our full-time schedules prior to this. Now, we were arranging child care for Lily so that we could deal with the medical steps we must take. I was afraid of losing my wife to cancer, worried that we would lose everything in the process. More than once, I broke under the pressure and dissolved into tears in private, but I didn’t let Heather see the worst of my meltdowns. I needed to be strong on her behalf.
However, not all of this experience was bad. Through our struggles, we encountered so many positives that helped pull us through. First and foremost was the community that rallied around us in our time of need. Friends and family came out of the woodwork offering help and support. We were so touched by their generosity, and it was this kindness that allowed us to make it through the most difficult times. Complete strangers even provided assistance and support. Comforting words were priceless, and financial help was certainly appreciated, as the bills kept piling up and our income was significantly lowered.
When you are faced with the overwhelming impact of cancer, take advantage of every little bit of help available. People who care will sincerely offer. Make the most of their support. The help and support of our community was invaluable in our fight with cancer.
Second only to the love and support of our community, our greatest tool to help us through was hope. Throughout all of the struggles, all of the bad days and moments of fear and despair, we never allowed ourselves to give up hope for a better tomorrow. A positive attitude and outlook can go a long, long way. My wife has frequently said that she sees life through rose-colored glasses. This positivity was key to her survival, as it encouraged both of us to never give up, even through the toughest times.
Heather’s mesothelioma treatment over the following months would drive her cancer into remission, and she has been cancer free to this day, over seven years since her diagnosis. I grew and learned a lot during this time, and I can honestly say that being my wife’s caregiver has made me a better man. Now, Heather and I hope that by sharing our story, we can inspire others in their own daily battles, whether it be cancer or any other obstacle in your way. Never give up hope, and never stop fighting for the ones you love.
“Cameron is husband to Heather Von St. James, survivor advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and father to Lily Rose. He, along with Heather and young Lily, had their world’s turned upside down when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just 3 1/2 months after the birth of his only child. When faced with the very real possibility of raising Lily on his own, he fought alongside Heather in her battle with mesothelioma. It was his determination and refusal to compromise on doctors or treatments that led them to Boston to receive radical surgery from esteemed mesothelioma surgeon, David Sugarbaker. Heather continues to thrive 7 years later.
Like Heather, Cameron is passionate about bringing awareness to mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure. It is his hope that sharing his story will help others those battling cancer and their caregivers who provide them care and guidance in their journey.”