Struggles During a Cancer Battle

Many of us know of at least one person who has battled with cancer. Today I have a guest, Cameron Von St. James, a man who has helped his wife battle with mesothelioma, a rare form of  cancer. He shares with us today his personal experience, and his own struggles as he and his wife worked at overcoming this disease. 

Malignant Mesothelioma, CT axial
Malignant Mesothelioma, CT axial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“My wife often asks me to explain to her what my life was like after we found out that she had mesothelioma.  Talking about my experiences has always been hard, but I feel that our story could resonate with other families facing tough battles with cancer, and for that reason I wish to share more.

We had been so excited about the birth of our daughter Lily.  She was born three months prior to my wife’s diagnosis.  I did not realize how quickly we could go from being so happy, to being so scared and worried.  When the doctors said mesothelioma, I wondered how on earth we would ever make it through this tough situation.

I did not have long to feel burdened with all of this news because the doctors quickly began to ask questions about our future medical choices.  Even though I was overwhelmed with everything, the decisions that I had to help my wife make did not leave much time for us to feel sorry for ourselves.  These impossible decisions quickly brought us back to reality and forced us to face our situation head-on.

I was so full of negative emotions during this time; I was often full of rage and anger and frequently lashed out at those around me.  Eventually, I began to gain better control of my anger because I knew what was at stake.  Being emotionally stable around my wife was so important, for I knew she depended on me to be strong and to be her support.  I realized I could not let her see how scared I was, because as difficult as it was for me I knew that it must be even worse for her.

Caregiver CamWith my wife battling this illness, so many responsibilities fell on me.  I was tired from taking care of our house, taking care of our daughter, driving back and forth to different places, and working at my own job.  On some days, even though I had a lot of help from my friends, I still was about to break down from all of the pressure. I learned that I needed to prioritize and create a routine for myself.  I had to understand that not everything could get done, and to take my list on one item at a time and tackle the most important issues first.  Even with my system in place, I relied heavily on the help offered by our community. Were it not for the incredible outpouring of generosity from our caring family and friends, we may never have made it through this difficult time.

Heather and Lily’s time in South Dakota was the most stressful of all.  For two months following Heather’s intensive surgery, they both stayed with Heather’s parents, so Heather could recover and get some rest before her next rounds of mesothelioma treatment.  Because I needed to stay behind for work, I only saw them once during these two months.

SR 20 Driving through snow to assess avalanche...

I can clearly remember my desperation to see them.  I drove 11 hours through the snow during the night, only to spend a few hours with both of them before I had to drive 11 hours back, so I could be at work the next day. It was a lot of gruelling travel for a precious few moments of time with them, but it was worth it.

Even as difficult as it may seem, everything worked out for the betterment of our family.  Having my wife and daughter stay with my wife’s parents was the most sensible choice.  All of our choices were things we needed to do, and I am glad that we were able to make choices.  We both took comfort in having some small amount of control over our situation, and as difficult as some choices were to make, the options afforded to us helped us get through.

This ordeal taught me a lot.  It taught me to always accept help from others and to always be thankful that we can make choices.  Choices give us the control we need when we feel that we do not have any control.  Now six years later, Heather is doing great.  I hope our story gives hope to others going through a cancer battle.”

(You can read more of Cameron’s experiences by visiting here)

What part of Cameron’s experience stands out for you?

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22 thoughts on “Struggles During a Cancer Battle

  1. How lucky they are and I grant them that reprieve, Three years ago plus one day we took leave of my brother-in-law who was also a victim of the Big C – less than 18 months and he was no longer with us in spite of radiation and chemo.

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    1. I agree Julie – to have supported his wife in the way he did, and to still look after his small child. All powered, I would like to believe, by the love he has for his wife and child.

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  2. I’m so happy to hear that she is doing better. I can’t imagine going through this. I marvel over this couples bravery, love, and determination. The amount of love, help, and cooperation from all the friends and family is inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I can’t say that any one thing stood out in Cameron’s story. It is all very heart wrenching and exhilarating all in one. I couldn’t be happier with Heather’s status, that’s daughter has her mom and a husband, a wife. There are trials in life that make us stronger and help us learn how much we can accomplish. I hope all continues to improve.

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  4. My work as an oncology nurse navigator puts me in close proximity to those affected by cancer everyday. The strength and courage I witness of patients and caregivers is often an overwhelming sight. Not everyone learns to accept help along the road and struggle more than truly necessary. I appreciate this loving husband’s perspective. All too often the exhausted caregiver is lost while we care for the one with cancer yet without that caregiver–yikes! The entire system would collapse.
    One final remark. How well a person responds to treatment is highly dependent on the type of cancer they have. Science has made great strides in the treatment of several cancers while others have seen little to no progress in decades. Quality of life should always be a consideration when a persons prognosis is poor but in my experience most people cannot face their own mortality. It’s a real dilemma for health care professionals and society. I could go on and on but will quit now. Thanks for sharing your heart, the world needs to hear stories like yours.

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  5. What an inspiring story of hope, courage, love , faith and friendship. What they go through was hard but their spirit to fight and optimism plus the support of family and friends help then overcome the odds. My thoughts and prayers to Heather and her husband as well as those who are inflicted with cancer. Thanks for sharing this post.

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  6. My husband lost both his parents to lung cancer, and my grandmother died of it, so did my stepfather. It is around everywhere, and these days I don’t think we think of people dying from it, but everyone in my family who has had has died.

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  7. What stands out for me in Cameron’s battle is the raw emotion, humility and strength of character it takes to be able to just say it like it is without glorification. Cameron’s truth in telling how his wife’s cancer impacted his life as well as revealing his initial anger and the toll his wife’s cancer took on him – caregiver strain resulting, helps other’s to understand and not judge themselves if they feel the same.

    I am glad that everything worked out for Cameron, his wife and their daughter. Once beyond this sort of human challenge, it is easier to see the good in everything, put all things in perspective and enjoy all that life offers and not dwell on what it doesn’t. In the end, this becomes a gift of realizing that life is to be lived and one never knows when that may change. We must focus on what is important each day….family, relationships, connections.

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