Happy Valentine's Day! This holiday often brings to mind romantic love, hearts and material gifts. One of my favorite parts about today is celebrating love for family, friends and loved ones in your life. From the time I was a very young child, I was blessed with a family that taught me the best valentine you can give someone isn't on paper or a material gift, it is the love you give them from your heart. It doesn't cost anything to give someone a smile or a hug. You don't have to buy them an expensive valentine in a shop or be a mastercrafter to design an elaborate creation. There is power in a pen to paper to expressing your gratitude and love.
Recently one of my readers contacted me asking if she could share her story with me. Heather Von St. James' story touched me to the core. Her love, determination and dedication as a mother to her young daughter reminded me of my late mother's same traits: love, dedication and determination to me. I asked Heather to share her story with my blog readers this Valentine's Day.
I have always been considered an optimist. I see the positive in everything and try to look at the bright side of things. That characteristic came in handy when my life changed at the age of 36. Three and a half months after giving birth to my first an only child, I received a deadly cancer diagnosis.
On November 21, 2005, I was told I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. I was in the midst of what should have been the happiest time of my life when the cancer was discovered. Like many cancer patients, I was totally shocked by the news. Nothing can prepare you for hearing that diagnosis.
I faced a choice when I got the bad news. I could either give up, ask "why me?" and blame God for my troubles; or I could face my future head on. I choose the latter, adopted an optimistic outlook and fought as hard as I could to be a mother to my baby daughter.
Most cancer patients will agree that the disease has a paradoxical nature. It can be the worst thing that could possibly occur, but it can also be a good thing in some ways. My cancer diagnosis changed my whole life. I decided not to be a victim and to put on my rose colored glasses instead. My optimism wiped out the fear, inspired me to help others and give them hope too.
I began seeing a well-known mesothelioma doctor. I left our visits hopeful that I could battle this disease and win. When I found out my tumor would be removed on Groundhog's Day in 2006, I named it Punxsutawney Phil. Now, instead of celebrating Groundhog's Day, we look forward to the day that my lung was removed. We call that day in February Lungleavin Day. On that special holiday, we celebrate the end of fear and the beginning of a new life that was born out of a dire situation. We honor hope and rejoice in life.
My cancer diagnosis introduced me to many extraordinary people that impressed me with their strength, passion and resilience. We call them warriors because they fight to spread knowledge about this disease that is unknown to so many. I never would have met these friends without my diagnosis. Now, my life is more purposeful and I intend to keep on giving hope to those battling this disease, specifically through the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.