Surviving Cancer: What I Learned as a New Mother
I never thought that I would go through cancer. I don't think that anyone does. Just suddenly, your whole life changes, and what you thought was given to you as a right, your life becomes a challenge. I was 36 when my life changed. There were extreme lows and extreme highs during the year that I was diagnosed. When I gave birth to my first and only child Lily, I couldn't imagine feeling anything less than utter bliss, yet my dreams were almost shattered a few months later.
I went back to work full time about 4 weeks after bringing Lily home. I didn't want to waste any time getting into the normal routine. That meant going to work every day, but I began to feel extremely tired to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. On top of that, I was losing weight, about five to seven pounds a week. Something was definitely wrong, and I was back in the doctor's office before I could even get used to being a new mommy. After three months, the test results were finally in.
Cameron came with me to the doctor's office when the results were in. We didn't know what to expect, but as I sat across from the doctor, listening to him say that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, something so specific and deadly, that I blocked out everything else but Lily. How was I going to be her mother now when I had this horrible other thing growing inside of me? What came next was even more shocking. The doctor said that I only had 15 months to live without treatment. That meant we had to pick a treatment right away, only I couldn't even talk or pay attention to the doctor's advice. I looked to Cameron who realized I was desperate for help, and he stepped in. We were going to see a specialist in Boston.
The specialist in Boston had a high success rate of treating mesothelioma patients. The first part of my treatment was surgery. I had to go through a very risky extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery that would remove one of my lungs, part of my chest and heart, as well as parts of my diaphragm. The surgery was incredibly risky, but I got through it. I spent 18 days in the hospital afterwards just to recover. Then, after another 2 months of recovery I began chemotherapy and radiation. All the while, I kept thinking of Lily. I couldn't see her or be around her too much during this process, and it broke my heart. Still, through it all, I thought of my dreams as a new mother and what I wanted to be for her. I was going to make it through this no matter what.
My family was a big help during the treatment. Going through chemotherapy and radiation for mesothelioma was one of the hardest challenges I ever had to face. It's a cancer that takes about 95 percent of the people diagnosed. Through my surgery and cancer treatment, I never stopped believing that there would be a brighter day for my family. I saw myself spending so many more years with Lily and raising her to be a kind and gentle heart.
My parents are some of the most generous people. Things were difficult for us, and my parents took Lily in while I went through my treatment in Boston. Through their strength, I also gained a great deal of perseverance to get through the darkest of times. My husband and caregiver Cameron was also there when things went to chaos. He was my rock and champion through every single day. Friends, other family members and even strangers wanted to help as we went through this dark period. I missed so many things in Lily's life, but I always think about how much worse it could have been without the help of so many people.
As deadly as cancer can be, there were a variety of lessons that I received from the experienced that bettered my life. For one, I appreciated the warmth of family so much more. I cherished my husband and daughter, forming such a tight bond because we fought for life together. As a family, we truly understand the gift of life and how precious that is. I beat mesothelioma because I had a support group that was bigger than I ever imagined. I don't know if I ever thanked everyone for how they came through for my family. They truly made us stronger just by being there and gave me a second chance to be the mother that I always wanted to be. Seven years later, we're a happy, healthy family and I am so thankful.