Guest Post – How I Was Affected By My Wife’s Cancer

Things you never thought you’d say – I am delighted to announce a guest post on this blog. This article is by Cameron Von St. James and is a very moving and inspirational post detailing the feelings a husband and parent goes through when supporting a loved one with a cancer diagnosis.

On November 21, 2005, I heard three words that I never expected to hear, malignant pleural mesothelioma. On this day, my wife Heather, was diagnosed with cancer, and I became her caregiver, and I had no idea what I was doing. I was distraught. The diagnosis came three months after Lily, our first and only child was born. We were entering a phase of our lives that could only be described as complete chaos.

Heather and I were supposed to make treatment decisions together almost immediately upon receiving the diagnosis. She was in shock and sat there silently, unable to comprehend the situation. When given the option of a local university hospital, a regional hospital, or a specialist in Boston, I quickly jumped in and chose the specialist in Boston, Dr. David Sugarbaker. I wanted Heather to have the very best care she could possibly receive, and felt that a specialist would be our best chance.

Our lives were chaotic after the diagnosis. Before the diagnosis, both Heather and I were working full time. After the diagnosis, she was not able to work, and I could only work part time because of the numerous other responsibilities I now had. I had to make travel arrangements, take care of my daughter, and make my wife’s doctor’s appointments. My thoughts raced out of control, and I was overwhelmed.

Constantly, I thought the worst, despite my best efforts to stay positive. I was terrified that I would lose my wife, and be left a widower to raise my daughter alone. My life was slowly unraveling before my eyes, and many days I would lie in my kitchen on the floor and cry uncontrollably, feeling crushed and overwhelmed by my fears and the pressure on me. However, despite these moments of weakness, I never let my wife see these fears. I always stayed strong and positive in her presence, as I knew she needed me now, more than ever, to be strong for her.

Without the help of my family, friends, and strangers, I would not have been able to cope with my wife’s diagnosis. We received comforting words and even financial assistance during our time of need. It was incredibly helpful, and we advise everyone to accept help when it’s offered. It took me a while to let go of my pride and accept these offers, but when I finally did a huge weight was lifted off of me.

While I was a caregiver, it was stressful and challenging with many days of uncertainty. Keep in mind that being a caregiver is difficult. Some days you will want to give up, but no matter what, you cannot walk away from your responsibilities. You have to use your resources and try to remain sane.

It took years for life to return to normal after Heather’s mesothelioma surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Today, Heather is cancer-free and has been this way for seven years. To beat mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive and deadly cancer, is an incredibly rare task, but my wife’s strength and our community’s love and generosity helped us accomplish just that. We hope that by sharing our story, we can help others currently battling through cancer today.