Ten years ago, a young mother in the United States, Heather Von St James, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. This is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Her father had worked with asbestos, and as a child, she used to put on his coat - and so innocently inhaled the lethal fibres. Heather was told she probably had a year or so to live- and certainly would not see her baby daughter Lily grow up. Heather opted for radical surgery, and had her left lung completely removed. Here is Heather, her husband Cam, and daughter Lily now
You can read Heather's story here and watch her inspirational video here. Heather contacted me because she thought I would help her share her story. A meso diagnosis is a frightening thing - and she wanted to pass on her hope to others. When she asked me, she didn't know how much this would resonate with me. In my own family, there has been a lot of lung disease, of different types - I have lost relations to emphysema, lung cancer, sarcoidosis and mesothelioma. As a young child, I was taken to visit an Uncle who was breathing in a scary 'Iron Lung' [these were very common in the 50's and 60's, particularly for polio sufferers] and at the end of her life, my Mum had to take her oxygen cylinder around with her. So yes, I have watched those I love struggle to breathe, and felt powerless to help them. I was glad to read the story of Heather's life.
She does a lot for the Mesothelioma Cancer Allliance in the USA, encouraging and helping others. In this country we have MESO UK. Both these websites offer information and support for Meso sufferers and their families.
But Heather particularly asked me to mention February 2nd - this date is celebrated every year by Heather and friends as "Lung Leavin' Day" as it is the anniversary of her op. Heather throws a party and invites friends to write their fears and worries on a plate and throw it into the bonfire.
This year will be the tenth anniversary of her surgery - a real cause for celebration. If you want to join in, then you can go to this interactive page and smash a 'virtual' plate.
There are no easy answers- Heather is wise enough to know that. Not everyone who comes near asbestos will get meso - and not everyone who gets it will recover as she has done. But she does believe that having faith, and sharing a positive attitude and not giving up at the first hurdle is important. This special day is her way of helping others get through the tough times in their lives. I am glad for her, for Cam and for Lily, that they have had these ten years of happy family life which was thought impossible back in 2005. So I am passing on their story.
So cheer with Heather, let go of worries, chuck a plate on a real or virtual bonfire... if you feel it is appropriate, chuck some cash at a Meso Charity too.
And don't forget what it says in 1 Peter 5
Throw all your anxiety onto God, because He cares about you.