A Story shared by one of our dedicated Readers.
Cameron Von St. James
Our Journey With A Cancer Diagnosis
Taking care of a family when a spouse has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is no easy task. My wife and I often look back to the time when she first received her diagnosis of this disease, and she still can’t believe how I managed to keep myself together while caring for her. Here’s our story.
Three months after our first and only child, Lily, was born, my wife, Heather received her diagnosis of mesothelioma. Our feelings quickly went from those of vibrant, new parents to fear and uncertainty of what the coming months were going to bring us. This was the first time I actually felt emotionally exhausted due to her diagnosis, and there were many more of these days to follow.
Upon receiving her diagnosis, I felt nothing but fear, anger and rage. I was unable to communicate this to anyone initially, as the only thing that came out of my mouth was profanity. I look back now and realize I used this language with everyone in my life, from members of our Church to everyone who worked in the health care field, the very people that were trying so hard to help us. As time passed my anger and rage subsided, and I was able to think clearly once again. As my wife was the rock in our family prior to her diagnosis, it was my turn to be the rock for our family now. I took this on with every fiber of my being. I tried to be calm, supportive and strong when my wife was around, because I knew that’s what she needed. Of course, this was easier thought and said than actually done, but I managed.
Immediately following her diagnosis, I sometimes found myself overwhelmed with the amount of things there were to do at home, at work and for Heather. I had to take care of everything, from making travel arrangements for my wife, caring for our infant daughter, the house and household chores and even taking care of our pets. These tasks, in addition to my normal job, quickly became overwhelming. I had to prioritize and do the most important things first. If other things didn’t get done, they would be there the next day. It was at this time that I learned how generous others were with their offers to help. I learned to take people up on their offers, and now when I look back on it all, I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise.
After my wife’s surgery, she flew to her parent’s home in South Dakota to recover at her parents house, and to be with Lily who had been staying there. She had to rest up and prepare for her next round of mesothelioma treatments, which involved chemotherapy and radiation. I missed them dearly, but realized it was for the best. With bills piling up, I took this time to focus on my job and keep our family’s financial situation above water. Sadly, I only had the time to see my wife and daughter once during this time. I drove the 11 hours it took to get to her parent’s home on a Friday evening, battling a late winter snow storm and sleeping in my car only to spend Saturday and Sunday morning with them before making the dreadful trip back home so I could go to work again that Monday.
My wife’s mesothelioma diagnosis forced us to make many difficult decisions in a short period of time. I learned to take people at their word and accept the help they offer. My wife and I have also realized that because we were able to make decisions about her care, we felt as if we maintained some control over our lives in this tough time. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help to all those families that are currently battling cancer. Please visit our site/blog for more helpful information.