|Heather and her beautiful family.|
Cancer is the farthest thing from your mind when you have a beautiful new life to
take care of; my only daughter, Lily, was only 3 1/2 months old when the doctors
told me about my diagnosis. I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of
their mouths. The world was forever changed in that moment. Nonetheless,
November 21, 2005 was the day I found out I had malignant pleural
However, in that one moment, I felt a wave of strength course through me. I was
about to tackle a life threatening disease that was one of my biggest internal
fears; but I knew I could beat it for my Lily.
My strength was coupled with hope as I visited Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Boston. This hospital employed one of the world's top mesothelioma doctors,
named Dr. David Sugarbaker. With his help and expertise, I was sure that I
could live and beat this cancer to see my daughter grow and develop into a
lovely young lady.
I was ready to throw the harsh mesothelioma statistics to the side. When I was
diagnosed, statistics indicated that only 2 percent of those diagnosed would live
past 5 years. This number did not squash my hope and determination; I was
going to be that 2 percent. Positive thinking and Dr. Sugarbaker's expert work
would surely pull me through.
My life was enveloped into fighting the disease head on for a year after my
diagnosis. The treatment process became a march through my darkest hours,
but I was determined to pull through successfully. The cancerous tumor had
taken over my left lung, as well as the lining surrounding it. As a result of the
growing tumor, it had to be removed. This major surgical procedure occurred
when Lily was 6 months old; she was living with my parents who were 1900
miles from my Boston hospital.
I fought the cancer throughout Lily's first year of life. She was shielded from all
the chemo and radiation procedures throughout this time with the help of friends
and family when I was at the hospital. Lily's first birthday was a double
celebration. She was the big one years old and I was almost done with cancer
treatment. Just prior to my one-year anniversary of the grim diagnosis, the final
radiation treatment was given. I will never look back.
My perspective on life has changed forever since my cancer diagnosis. The
small things, from a rainbow to laughter, remind me about the value of life and
how each day should be lived to its fullest. Appreciate everyone and everything
I will never forget the people that I have come to know and love along this
road. Friends I have lost to mesothelioma, family and friends that supported
those in need, and people, like me, that are continuing to battle the disease
should be commended. As a group, they are inspiring; these people are not just
actors on a daytime television commercial. They are real humans with a real
disease; mesothelioma awareness is one of my true passions now.
Today, I believe in positive thinking, even on my bad days. Each day is a gift
that should be celebrated by living it to the fullest.