This is a guest post by Heather
People always ask my seven-year-old daughter about my cancer and how she feels about it. She always responds, “I saved my mommy’s life.” Her response is so automatic and perfunctory that it was as if she was telling people, “I’m hungry.” or “I don’t feel good.” She doesn’t even think twice about it now when she is asked. Many people do not recognize the gravity of her statement about saving my life, but she did save my life, and this is how she did it.
My husband Cameron and I did not have our first child until we had been married seven years. Because I was 35 years old, I was worried about how that might affect the birth of my child. I was clueless about getting pregnant. I didn’t know how long it would take. We made the decision to have a baby, and three months later, we were pregnant. I only had to take three pregnancy tests, and I confirmed that we were having a baby!
I often reminisce about the moment, and I recall feeling shocked, nervous, and elated all at one time. I couldn’t believe I was going to be a mother. When I felt excited, I would rub my tummy, and these overwhelming feelings that an infant was growing inside overcame me. My mind raced with thoughts such as, “What kind of mom would I be? Would I be a strict mom? Would I be a fun mom? Would I be a cool mom?” Above all, I wanted to be a good mom.
I often laughed that I could get pregnant 10 times more after an incredibly smooth pregnancy. Unfortunately, my delivery wasn’t without complications. My daughter was breech, and I had to do an emergency C-section. I remember thinking, “At least she will have a round head.” That joke was just me trying to find the positive aspects surrounding the situation.
When I finally got to hold her, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to be her teacher, coach, and I wanted to love her with all my heart. When I held her in my arms, it was if nothing else mattered. My whole life was about her at that time. All I wanted to do was study her face, hold her in my arms, and just spend every little bit of time with her. Everything seemed so perfect that I couldn’t have imagined that storm was brewing in the background.
The storm emerged 3 ½ months after the birth of my daughter. I received news that I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. My doctor urged me that I only had 15 months to live if I was not treated immediately. When I heard the news, I was in utter shock. I thank god for my husband because I didn’t know how I would get through the ordeal without them.
My husband, Cameron, reviewed all of my options for treatment and made the decision for us since I was in shock. He chose the most drastic or comprehensive treatment available. We went to Boston to meet one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the profession. After evaluating my case, my biggest chance for survival was to undergo a surgery known as an extrapleural pnemonectomy. This surgery removed my left lung along with parts of my heart and chest lining and diaphragm.
I remained in the hospital for 18 days for recovery. After this, I spent two months in South Dakota preparing for chemotherapy and radiation.
I made sacrifices for Lily and missed important milestones in my life. It was one of the most difficult experiences ever. I was away from my baby for an entire month, but I knew I had to remain strong because my daughter needed me. I bravely faced surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to stay alive and healthy for my daughter.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that kills almost 95 percent of the people diagnosed with the disease. I had so many reasons not to fight, but my daughter’s need for a mother kept me going. This is why I say that Lily saved my life because she gave me my will to live, and for this reason, I kept fighting each day.