Today, June 7th is National Cancer Survivor’s Day, a day where we honour all of the wonderful heroes walking among us who have lived through the scary diagnosis of cancer, and walked through to the other side. As most of you know, I have worked with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada to raise money through their Team in Training program (and look forward to doing so again in the future), and cancer awareness and research is a cause near to my heart having lost three of my grandparents to the disease.
Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2005, just three months after giving birth to her daughter, Lily. She is now a 9 year survivor of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer which usually takes patients within their first year of diagnosis. This form of cancer is only caused only by asbestos exposure, which Heather contracted from exposure to asbestos fibers on her dad’s construction work jacket as a child.
She underwent cancer treatment that involved the removal of her left lung, which saved her life and now works to spread awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos. But I’ll let her tell you more about her story in the video below:
You may be as shocked as I was to learn that unlike many other countries, asbestos is still not banned in the US and Canada.
When I was in grade primary, I was sent to a neighbouring school for a few months while they removed the asbestos insulation from my elementary school. Based on that experience, I was under the impression that it was banned back then, but apparently it was only banned in the use of a few select uses (a ban which was later overturned).
Mesothelioma affects the lining of the organs, most commonly, the lungs. The average age for diagnosis of this form of cancer is 70+, making Heather’s diagnosis at age 36 quite out of the norm. The earlier the disease is detected, the higher the survival rate is however, the rate remains low with only 5-10% surviving past the five year mark. Mesothelioma doesn’t get as much attention as some of the more “mainstream” forms of cancer, which means that not only are we uninformed about it, but it also means that finding effective treatments and a cure for it also don’t get the attention they need.
Heather is a survivor in every sense of the word, and is dedicating her life to helping to spread awareness to this rare form of cancer most of us (myself included) have only heard of in commercials on TV.
Please take a moment to share Heather’s story, and information on asbestos and mesothelioma to spread awareness to your friends and family. It is only together that we can make a difference.
I’d like to thank Heather’s husband Cameron for contacting me about writing this story. He wanted to do something special to honour her today, and I was thrilled to be able to contribute to his efforts!