Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MOM Heather Part 2: Mesothelioma Survivor

I first introduced you to Heather back in April (Click here for PART 1 of Heather's story), which is also when I decided to put a hold on the blog for a while due to various circumstances, one of which was my mom's own battle with lung cancer.  I was honestly wondering if writing the remainder of Heather's story would be difficult for me after losing my mom to lung cancer in September, but it's not.  I find myself so overwhelmingly happy for Heather and her family, and that they have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.  We were given 14 more years with my mom after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2000, and I'm focusing my gratitude on that this Thanksgiving.  Of course I miss my mom terribly, and always will, but I'm trying to focus on the fact that there is always something to be thankful for :)

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Heather believes she survived her diagnosis for several reasons.  Her mesothelioma was caught early and she sought out the best medical care she could find.  Heather says that "finding a specialist is VITAL in a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is unlike any other cancer, and should be treated by someone who knows what you are up against."  Heather also attributes her attitude and her faith to her survival, 
"I honestly never thought it would be the end of me, I would not take a death sentence as a diagnosis.  Just when you think you can't handle one more thing, somewhere, somehow you find the strength and determination to keep going.  My reason was my daughter.  Find a reason to fight and ask for help...my faith played a huge part in helping me. Rely on God, He never leaves us."

Heather's treatment included surgery to remove her lung and surrounding tissue, with a recovery time of about 3 months.  She then underwent 4 rounds of chemotherapy, 3 weeks apart, and 6 weeks of radiation.  "Al in all, it took about year from my diagnosis to my last treatment."

We've all heard of asbestos, and when I hear the word, I think of the 70s.  Most asbestos exposure used to happen in the workplace, in trades where asbestos was either used or manufactured.  But Heather explains that a younger generation of people are being diagnosed with mesothelioma, like Heather, because of second-hand exposure to their parents' work clothes when they were young.  That is how Heather was exposed, her dad worked with it.  

Heather says that most of all homes built before 1978 most likely have asbestos in there somewhere:
"most exposure now comes from household renovation.  Tearing out old asbestos tiles in floors and ceilings. Tearing asbestos insulation off of pipes and ducts, or removing asbestos insulation from the attic."  
There are no specific tests to see if one has mesothelioma.  Warning signs include shortness of breath, pleural effusion, rapid weight loss, pain in the shoulder area that doesn't go away, and maybe a persistent dry cough.  More information can be found on Mesothelioma.com.  If you have been exposed to asbestos, or are exhibiting any of these warning signs, Heather urges you to tell your doctor your concerns, "Mesothelioma has anywhere from a 10-50 year latency period, which is why it's so hard to diagnose."

It is ALWAYS recommended that you hire a professional before tackling a remodel project on an older home as to not expose yourself to asbestos.   Heather encourages you to educate yourself as to where asbestos is located by visiting The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.  Surprisingly, the use of asbestos is not illegal, because it is a naturally occurring, mined mineral.  So what can we do to help? Heather says "what we can do is work toward a ban on using it, or importing it by calling your State's Representatives and local government officials and tell them it needs to be banned." I have an idea!  If you happen to be doing a random acts of kindness Advent calendar with your children, as many moms I know are doing, contacting your government officials in regard to banning asbestos could be one of your acts!

MOM Heather Q&A:

Did you always want to have children?  
"My husband and I talked about having a daughter on our fist date!! We new right away when we met that we were IT… and so we always knew we would have kids… it just took us awhile to actually take the plunge, so to speak.. we waited 7 years after getting married to start a family. I went through a selfish stage in my 20's where I could not imagine having kids, but I was single at the time and working on my career, but as soon as Cams and I met, I knew I wanted a family with him.."

What do you enjoy most about motherhood?  
"I love the discoveries of something new.. I keep saying how much I love 8 year olds! 8 is such a great age,.. she is so involved and curious and loves to learn, every day I learn something new about her.. of course I said the same thing at age 7, age 6, age 5, and so on and so on!"

What traits do you hope to instill in your daughter? 
"I hope to instill my love of giving and helping.. and honesty."

Anything else you would like to add?
I just want to THANK YOU for taking the time to share my story and my passion… Without the help of people like you, we would not be able to spread the word of hope!! A cancer diagnosis does not mean a death sentence… Keep the hope alive.. :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Let's Catch Up


Hi Momsters, I'm so glad to be back!  I haven't posted anything on this blog since April when I introduced the last Momster of the Month (MOM), Heather, and her fight against and awareness of Mesothelioma.  I will complete sharing her story with you, but first I'd like to catch everyone up with what's been going on for the last 7 months.  

My mom was my very first MOM I featured on this blog, and I shared her story of survival and how she beat the odds against Stage 4 breast cancer.  Shockingly, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in December 2013 and put up a good fight.  Unfortunately, to say the least, she lost that battle and moved to be with her Heavenly Father on September 19, 2014.  She was never a smoker, but grew up surrounded by family members who were...in the car, in the house, she couldn't escape it.  The assumption by doctors is that this diagnosis was completely unrelated from her breast cancer, since she had been cancer-free for a number of years, and most likely caused by her exposure to second-hand smoke.  

There will never be a day I do not miss her.  I know she is in Heaven waiting to greet me again with a giant hug, but that doesn't mean I don't ache for a hug from her now on Earth. I miss being able to call her whenever I need to hear her reassuring voice and encouraging wisdom, or to share something adorable my daughter did today.  She was my biggest supporter of Momster Mash, and I want to keep this going in order to support each and every one of you.  

Every mother.

Everywhere.

Every mother facing a battle I don't want them to face alone.  

Every mother with encouraging wisdom to share.

Every mother needing to feel that we ARE in this together, and we need constant support from one another and reminders that God is WITH us and FOR us in the midst of whatever battle we may be facing...big or small.  

In the midst of such deep sadness, I'm also experiencing great joy as we will be welcoming our second child, a boy, into our family very soon.  In April, just 3 months after my miscarriage, I was surprised to find out I was pregnant so soon!  I am so very grateful that it happened so quickly, as I was able to share this news with my mom and she was also able to find out we were having a son.  I even got to share the name we have chosen with her before her passing.  

Come April, life was crazy.  I was working more than usual, traveling often on weekends to visit my mom, dealing with first trimester nausea and exhaustion, and my husband took a new job working Monday-Friday in a town 5 hours away.  Oh, and we have a 2-year-old daughter. The blog definitely took a backseat to life's other demands, and I accidentally let my domain name subscription lapse.  Once I realized this, I had issues getting it all sorted out.  I'm no website techy whiz, just teaching myself as I go.  

I'm now almost 38 weeks pregnant and officially on maternity leave, work has calmed down for my hubby (for the time being, anyway), and it feels like the dust surrounding me after losing my mom here on on earth is settling a bit.  She would want me to keep this going.  She knew how much joy Momster Mash brought me, and I want to continue to fill other moms with joy and encouragement as well. 

Thank you for being a part of my ministry that is Momster Mash, and for helping me and my mission of what Momster Mash is all about..."A sisterhood of mothers, encouraging one another as we grow".  If you are an "old faithful" Momster, THANK YOU for sticking around, for being a part of this amazing sisterhood, and for spreading the love to others.  

If you are new to Momster Mash, WELCOME!  Please take a look around and see what this is all about. You can visit the MOMs tab above to familiarize yourself with previous Momsters of the Month.  I already have some amazing MOMs lined up to pick up where I left off, and I look forward to sharing their stories with you.  They are stories of triumph, heartache, joy and sadness...but these stories helped to shape the incredible women behind them, and these women have graciously offered to share their stories with you so that you may find one more arena for healing, one more person to connect with, one more avenue for healing after whatever it is you may be facing.

Life WILL throw us curve balls. 
NONE of us are immune to trouble and heartache.  

It's how we face those curve balls and learn to heal from the heartache that defines us.  

And we don't have to do this alone.