A Tough Holiday Season with Cancer

FYI – The #50People process seems to be continuing. The continuation started just like this:

Hi, I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance? Thanks, Cameron

I followed up with an email that lead to a conversation about me allowing Cameron to “guest post” on my blog – (Yeah, I am big time now!)

I did take some time to let Cameron know that my blog isn’t anything that big and that the posting will probably only be seen by 4 people max but . . . you never know how it might affect those 4 people.

If you are not sure what the #50People process is you can catch up here:

https://dxpepper.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/50peope-lets-do-this/

https://dxpepper.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/look-what-50people-did/

So here it is:

A Tough Holiday Season with Cancer

When the holidays roll around, I always look forward to spending time with the people I love most, celebrating our family traditions, and giving thanks for all of our blessings. When my daughter, Lily was born in August of 2005, my wife Heather and I were already anticipating our precious little girl’s first Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, all of our exciting plans for the holidays came to a screeching halt when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma just three days before Thanksgiving.

At this point, our daughter was only three and a half months old. Heather had been experiencing fatigue and shortness of breathe for weeks, symptoms that we had at first chalked up to the stresses of early parenthood.  However, the weeks went on and the symptoms only worsened.  After several doctors visits and countless tests, the simple answers began to be checked off one by one.  We began to fear that something was seriously wrong.  Finally, the doctors determined that it was mesothelioma.  At first the diagnosis of this rare and very deadly cancer took our thoughts off of the holidays and straight towards how we were going to be fighting it. Thoughts of thanks went right out of my head and were replaced with anger at the unfairness of it all, and fear at what it could mean for my family.

Despite the devastating news, we still tried to celebrate the holidays; after all there was a very real possibility that it would be Lily’s only holiday season with her mom. Heather’s family flew in for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I dreaded the conversation that I knew we would have to have. After our holiday meal, we sat around the table to discuss our difficult situation.  On top of the obvious stresses about my wife’s health, the mesothelioma diagnosis brought with it a wealth of financial difficulty.  Heather and I had previously both worked full time, but we were now living on my income alone.  The expenses of cross-country travel and medical treatment were unexpected, to say the least, and we were ill prepared for them.  Heather parents discussed with us what we could liquidate to stay afloat during the coming months, and how much they could afford to help us pay for. For years afterward, this was a time that I could not think about without cringing.  I was mortified and embarrassed, and in that moment I truly felt that I had nothing to be thankful for that year.

Now, years later, I can look back on that day with a whole different perspective. I can see now what my pride and fear had blinded me to that Thanksgiving.  We had a family that was willing to do anything they could to help us in our time of need. They had dropped all of their other plans to come out and help us with what they had. We were so blessed to have them, and now I can see how much I did have to be thankful for that year.

It was largely due to their help that Heather and I made it through her intense treatment.  After the holidays, we traveled to Boston, where Heather underwent an invasive procedure call an extrapleural pneumonectomy.  She stayed with her parents during her recovery, while I returned home to work, in the continuing attempt to keep us above water financially. She would have to go through more rounds of treatment involving chemotherapy and radiation in the months that followed, but in the end she came out alive and well.

This year, I am making time to think about that day around our table, where so many others put their lives on hold for my family and me. I will forever be grateful to our incredibly loving and generous friends and family, who made it possible for us to make it through Heather’s mesothelioma treatment.  She has now been cancer free for over six years, and we’ve been able to celebrate seven wonderful Christmas’s and counting together with our daughter.  We hope that our story of triumph over cancer can help all those currently fighting a battle with cancer find something in their lives to be thankful for this holiday season.

You can keep up with Cameron here: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/

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