Have you heard of mesothelioma? Do you know the source for this rare cancer? Heather Von St. James has dedicated her life to making sure you do. Heather is a mesothelioma survivor.
Heather Von St. James was living the good life. Happily married and enjoying life with her young daughter, Heather noticed she was slowly losing weight and strength in her body. She was having trouble breathing. Her doctor informed her she had mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. As she recounts at the website Mesothelioma.com,
Without treatment, I wouldn’t live past 15 months. In November of 2005, my doctor said I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. He said “cancer,” but all I heard was that I might not be able to raise my three-month-old daughter, and my husband might become a widower after just six and a half years of marriage. I learned that my father, a man who worked in drywall construction, had unknowingly exposed his own little girl to asbestos through his work jacket. Treatment options were limited, and there was no guarantee.
Heather has outlived her original prognosis by more than 10 years. Her dedication to raising awareness is inspiring. Her attitude is empowering.
I encourage you to face your fears. I still have them, and will the rest of my life. Fear of my cancer coming back, fear of my husband getting sick, fear of my daughter getting sick . . . so many that if I let them take over, I would never be able to breathe. So I don’t let them, and I exhale.
This three-minute video gives you an inside look at Heather’s story—then and now.
Heather’s asbestos exposure came from her dad’s jacket. Exposure can occur directly through insulation, roofing material, siding, and more. Asbestos is currently the #1 cause of occupational cancer in the United States.
Asbestos was used as a building material as far back as the Roman Empire. Asbestos offers excellent fire- and heat-resistant properties, making it advantageous not only for building but also for textiles, insulation, and roofing. Unfortunately, it also is carcinogenic.
Currently in the United States, asbestos is still not banned! However, it cannot be used to produce new products. This means you will often find asbestos in older products and homes. Always take proper precautions when addressing asbestos in an indoor environment.
Wondering about asbestos in your home? Check out Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center’s Article WATCH for Asbestos in Your Home.
If you suspect your home contains asbestos, contact a qualified inspector for proper testing.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are in search of a doctor who specializes in this field, you’ll find an interactive map with local resources at the website MesotheliomaHelp.org.
As with so much in our environment, it’s often about the unseen and a lack of awareness. Thanks to Heather for helping us learn the facts about mesothelioma and asbestos!