Cameron Von St. James is a husband, father and caregiver. In this guest post, Cameron shares his family story of caring for his wife Heather through her cancer diagnosis and treatment. Thank you, Cameron and here's to all the husbands, fathers and sons giving care today.
How a battle with cancer made us stronger
My beautiful daughter, Lily, was born in of August in 2005. It was a time of complete joy and happiness with our little family. Over the next several months my wife and I learned how to be parents and how to care for a little child. Three months later, we were preparing for Christmas and our daughter's first holiday season. That was when disaster struck, on November 21st, 2005. My wife, Heather, was diagnosed with cancer.
Our doctor told us that Heather had malignant pleural mesothelioma. (CLICK HERE for more information on mesothelioma.) He helped us to understand what the cancer was and how it would affect our lives. My wife sat there in shock, with a look on her face that I would never forget. The doctor gave us a few options on where we could go for treatment, and we quickly chose to go to a doctor in Boston who specialized in mesothelioma. His name was Dr. David Sugarbaker. This decision was the first of many that I would have to help make regarding my wife's care.
The next two months passed amid chaos and uncertainty. Heather, who previously had a full time job, had to stop working. My full time job became part time in order to accommodate my new responsibilities as a caregiver. We juggled doctor visits with taking care of our daughter and still struggling to go to work and pay our bills. During these times I faced my greatest fears. What would happen if Heather died? How could I raise Lily alone? More than once these fears brought me to my knees, sobbing. It was only by reminding myself of the tasks that lay ahead that I could focus and keep going.
Throughout this whole ordeal we had so many people who offered to help. Friends, family, and complete strangers would approach us with tokens of help. Some were small, and some were huge. No matter what they were, each and every bit of help took one more thing off of the list that we had to do that day. If I could give advice to anyone who is facing any sort of illness, it would be to accept every offer of help given to you. We could not have survived without it. Even though my fears of being alone crippled me at times, the truth was that we were always surrounded with love.
During these years I learned how to be a caregiver. Being a caregiver isn't easy. It is constant, day and night. You can quit a job, stop going to school, and give up on any other thing you do in life, but as a caregiver to someone you love, there is no giving up. It was hard. There were good days and bad days, and I came to accept that. As long as you never give up hope, you stand a fighting chance.
For years we went through the routine familiar to all those who have had a loved one fighting illness. We had radiation treatments, chemotherapy, even surgery. Finally we got the amazing news that Heather was cancer free.
Those years as my wife's caregiver taught me a lot. I learned to give up my pride and ask for help when I needed it. I learned that I can meet any challenge, no matter how great it was. I learned that hope is a weapon that fights off despair. If you ever find yourself in my situation, you will have to dig deep. Never stop fighting for them. Never stop hoping for them. In the end, you will find that both you and your loved ones have become strengthened to a degree that you never thought possible.
For more information on mesothelioma, CLICK HERE.