Friday, 20 April 2012

Lily’s Village

Heather and her beautiful loving family have been through a lot and have through all of it never lost the spirit of living. I want to thank her for sharing a part of herself and her family with all of us.

I'd heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" more times than I can remember in my life. However, it wasn't until after my beautiful daughter, Lily, was born, that an unexpected event changed my life. It was through this event that I truly understood the meaning of the statement. I saw firsthand a living, breathing representation of my own personal "village" show up at a critical point of my life.

My daughter was born on August 4, 2005 and my husband and I were thrilled of course. Unfortunately, my happiness was short lived. It was only three and a half months later when I received news that would change my life. November 21, 2005 was the day I was diagnosed with cancer. The cancer I had was malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lung caused by asbestos (which I had unknowingly been exposed to as a child). Symptoms of mesothelioma are difficult to notice as they mimic common ailments. As I absorbed the fact that I had mesothelioma, I couldn't help but think about the little girl I just given birth to, and what this diagnosis meant for her.

If I had done nothing I was told I'd have a little more than a year left to live. Because my mesothelioma prognosis was grim, I decided to move forward with a very drastic treatment option. It was called extrapleural pneumenectomy and required the surgical removal of my left lung. The surgery kept me in the hospital for almost 3 weeks and after 2 months of recovery; I was to begin chemotherapy treatments I had to do all of this while adjusting to being a new mom who couldn't always be with her daughter. Without the help of my village, I am certain I would not have been able to make it through.  

My daughter Lily was with my parents while I had my surgery in Boston. While my husband and I were in Boston fighting to keep me alive, we were surrounded by people in similar situations who understood what we were going through; they showed us love and support and helped us get through each day. My parents were experiencing the same thing back in South Dakota where I'd grown up.

Lily was with my parents who received a ton of help as well. There were little girls who I had baby sat who were now mothers themselves offering to care for Lily when my parents had to work. So many of the people I'd known over the years and had gone to church with showed up and offered their support in one way or another. We were all so absolutely grateful for the outpouring of love. Because of everyone who stepped up to help in some way, Lily was able to grow and thrive while my husband and I were able to focus on my health.

Today, the nurses are gone and I no longer have to see my child via the grainy printed email pictures my mother would frequently me while in the hospital. Although my daughter is with me now, my parents have a unique bond with Lily because they were present for so many firsts in her life.

My entire family now has a new appreciation for life and the many blessings in it. The road has not been easy, but we have learned to embrace whatever life sends our way. Cancer, in many ways, has taught us so much about the beauty of life.