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Friday, February 5, 2016

smashing fears: one plate -and lung- at a time by Heather Von St. James

I am always excited when someone finds my blog on the Internet and contacts me with something that totally inspires me to want to do more. Heather Von St. James has done just that! I am so honored to feature her on my blog today, as one more cheerleader in her army of support as she celebrates TEN YEARS CANCER FREE this February!

Her story is one of fear and courage, worry and determination. She has turned a difficult situation into a passion for helping raise awareness about a topic that is not typically discussed. She chose to stand up, keep moving forward, never give up, and to fight literally for her life. She came out on the other side of fear, and she lives her life now inspiring other women to do the same: to beat the odds, to take a day at a time, and to stay positive.

I LOVE her message, blog, and interactive site.

PLEASE join me in supporting this courageous and STRONG MOMMA! There is an interactive site at the bottom of this page where you can smash your fears while supporting her work.

THANK YOU, Heather, for being such an awesome person and for sharing your story with us.

Images shared from Heather Von St. James

1. What was your biggest fear when you found out you had cancer?

My biggest fear was that my daugher was going to grow up without a mother, and my husband without his wife. At the time of my diagnosis, I was told I only had 15 months to live. This was only 3 months after giving birth to Lily. 

It was the first thing that came to mind. Lily needed her mom, and Cam needed his wife. So many thoughts flooded my mind, would we lose our home? What would happen to me? What about my career? Any fear of the unknown can be powerful, but I couldn’t let that control me moving forward.

2. What did this experience teach you about how strong of a mother you are?
After the initial shock, fear and denial, a quiet determination set in. My doctor had a tentative plan put in place for my treatment, and the instinct to beat what I was faced with kicked in. I call it my survival instincts. As a mother I devoted all of the time I had to Lily, which taught me how I couldn’t live in crisis mode my whole life. I got into a routine and stuck to it. I didn’t think of what time I had left, rather this was just a hurdle I was going to be able to jump over. I very much tried to live in the moment, and adjust to my “new normal” as a mother and a wife.

3. What have you learned from this experience about life and about being afraid?

A cancer diagnosis can take away so much, but I couldn’t let it take away my sense of control over my life. I had to do everything possible to get a hold of the situation, which for me was the healthiest thing I could think of. When I faced my fears, I learned I was stronger than I thought. If you had told me down the line I was going to face a mesothelioma diagnosis, treatment, chemotherapy, radiation, the loss of my lung, and end up beating it, I wouldn’t have believed you.

4. What is your goal with your Lung Leavin' Day Web site and your work with this topic?

I want to inspire people to do as I did. 
I want them to face their fears head on, no matter how hard or overwhelming they may seem. And ultimately I want them to conquer those fears and not let it control them. 

That was a big part of my cancer experience and what I attribute my longevity to. The interactive site was created to help people do as I did, and encourage them to! I also hope to spread awareness on the topic.

5. What do you hope will happen by raising awareness about mesothelioma?
I want to see asbestos banned in the countries that it is still legal in. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause for mesothelioma and as a little girl I was exposed to it from wearing my father's work jacket. He worked in construction and drywall and his coat carried fibers that I had no idea would make me sick as an adult. Mesothelioma has a long latency period which means that symptoms don’t always appear right away, so you could have been exposed and not know until many years down the line. If asbestos had been banned and removed properly, perhaps wouldn’t have gone through what I did.

I try to share my story in hopes that it will help spread the word about this preventable disease, and keep families from dealing with what mine had to go through.

6. What is your advice to women for taking care of their bodies, being overall healthy, and hopefully preventing some cancers?
I think it is important to pay attention to your body. Had I not done that once my symptoms began to creep in, I may not be here today. I had a series of different symptoms which by themselves seem like nothing to worry about (weight loss, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, trouble breathing) but combined there was something very troublesome wrong. My advice would be to not downplay what you are feeling, if you feel something is not right you need to see a doctor. 

Sometimes early detection can be the difference between life and death, which was true in my case. You know your body best.

7. What do you hope your daughter learns from your experience? What is your hope for her?
My hope for Lily is that she sees what I went through and realizes that she was what kept me fighting. My hopes for her are so high and I am blessed to be able to watch her grow every day. I want her to realize that life isn’t about the little things. Every day should be taken in stride and it’s not about if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, or getting the dishes done as soon as someone dirties them. Live in the moment, and enjoy it!

8. Anything else you want to add?
I have my own blog series that really goes into detail about all of the steps that led me to my 10 year cancer free­ anniversary. Each section has its own theme, such as fear/denial, community, motherhood/family. I would love to encourage anyone interested to reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter, and if they’d like to smash their own plate on the Lung Leavin’ Day Page, here are the links:

Facebook -
Twitter -
Lung Leavin’ Day -

Thank you so much for this opportunity! 


It takes two seconds and it's well worth the feeling you get when you write out your fear and then SMASH it like it won't hold you back. Please help raise awareness by talking to your friends about this important topic, sharing Heather's story and reading her blog, liking her Facebook page, donating money toward mesothelioma awareness research, etc. 


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