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 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  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.. :)

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