Those of you who have been following the myMeso blog for a while remember our friend Heather Von St. James, a meso survivor and warrior from Minnesota. Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma just a few months after giving birth to her daughter Lily, at the young age of 36. There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma, which is related ot asbestos exposure, and traditionally patients are given a matter of months to live following a diagnosis. This was unacceptable to Heather and her husband, Cameron, were determined to find an answer, and to fight.
Heather decided to undergo a surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy. According to the Multimedia Manual of Cardiothoracic Surgery, extrapleural pneumonectomy was introduced in the 1940s for the treatment of extensive infections of the lung and pleural space. During the past 20 years, the extrapleural pneumonectomy technique has been modified and applied to the treatment of locally advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma, achieving substantial reductions in mortality. The surgery involves the removal of the lung with visceral and parietal pleurae, pericardium and diaphragm. Dr. David Sugarbaker at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital performed the surgery, and Heather is a survivor.
She describes her viewpoint as looking through “rose colored glasses,” always taking the optimistic viewpoint. Hers is a life filled with hope, for herself, her family, and other mesothelioma patients. Today she is an outspoken advocate for mesothelioma awareness, working with such organizations as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) to eradicate asbestos and seek a cure.
Heather has created a powerful video talking about her personal experience, and sharing her message of hope. Additionally, the video includes information about resources for meso sufferers, their families and caregivers about where to find help, and how to connect with the network of meso warriors who share their struggle.