What does Mesothelioma and Myeloma have in common – Stories of love and miracles!


Look at this beautiful family!  They look happy and without a care in the world.  They are happy, committed to each other, loving, and in the fight of their lives.  Heather Von St. James has Mesothelioma(an incurable lung cancer), and she and her family have been in a fight that every myeloma patient is confronted with.  Mesothelioma has some of the same characteristics of myeloma that make their fight something that all  myeloma patients can relate with.

It is not common, but where myeloma has 20,000 newly diagnosed cases each year they have 2000, or it is 10 times less common.  Myeloma is incurable (our specialists are starting to question that), and Mesothelioma is incurable as well,but few question this assertion.  We have 50 to 75 multiple myeloma specialists in the USA that understand and are really qualified to adequately treat our disease, while they have 5 at best, and only one that is world renowned.  Our published life expectancy is 4 years, while mesothelioma has a life expectancy of just over one year from diagnosis.  So why the smiles on this loving family’s faces?  Because in the face of these odds stacked against them they would fight this death sentence with all of their heart and soul, faith, and family.  This is the story of Heather, Cameron, and Lily.  Cameron has a caregiver blog at the link: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/  This is their story as presented to me by Cameron, and I felt compelled to share it with each of you.

Taking Care of My Wife with Cancer (Cameron Von St. James)

The 21st of November is a day that will always stick in my head. It was that particular day that my wife, Heather, received a cancer diagnosis. We found out that Heather was suffering from mesothelioma. It was on that day that I became Heather’s caregiver. Becoming a caregiver for a person with cancer was not something I expected to be doing. Just a few months before Heather received her diagnosis, we were in celebration mode because our first child, Lily, had just been born. After Lily was born, our focus was on her and the upcoming holidays. We could not wait to spend Christmas with Lily, but the diagnosis turned our world upside down, and our focus shifted to beating this cancer.

After Heather received her diagnosis, the doctor started giving us more information on mesothelioma. The doctor said that Heather would need to go to a specialist in order to find out more information about treatment. We were told that Heather had several options, including a local hospital or a doctor, Dr. David Sugarbaker, who specializes in mesothelioma in Boston. Upon hearing these options, I looked at Heather’s face to see what option she would be interested in pursuing.  However, Heather appeared to be distraught. I jumped in and decided that seeing the specialist in Boston would be the best decision.

For the next few months things were quite difficult and chaotic. Life as we knew it had changed. Before Heather was diagnosed, she had returned back to work after having Lily. Both of us were working full-time positions. Once she received her diagnosis, Heather had to stop working and I began working only part-time. Aside from work, I was accompanying Heather to her appointments and caring for Lily. In just a short amount of time, things started to become extremely overwhelming for me. I also began to feel scared and afraid that my wife was going to pass away, leaving me a broke widower and single father, raising a daughter who would never really know her mother. I can admit that I broke down crying about these things on several occasions. I never allowed Heather to see me this way because I wanted to be strong so that she would feel strong too.

We received lots of support from our close friends and family members. There were even some strangers who were willing to help. I quickly learned to take the help that was being offered to me. The people who helped us also made me feel like I was not alone. I never realized how challenging being a caregiver could be until I actually became one. There is a lot of stress involved with being a caregiver. The best way to get through it all is to accept help and use as many resources available as possible. My life did not go back to what I consider normal for many years. There were a lot of challenges along the way, including Heather’s mesothelioma surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy. There was a light at the end of the tunnel though, and Heather did overcome mesothelioma. Today, over seven years later, Heather is healthy and cancer-free.

I have learned a lot along the way. One of the most important things I learned was to live for the moment, which is why I chose to further my education in Information Technology. Learning to balance caring for Lily and my wife while working helped me to gain the courage to further my education and take that chance. In fact, I graduated from school with honors and was able to speak at the graduation. I would have never expected to be in that position just a few years ago. Learning to believe in myself played such an important role. Heather and Lily were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.

The Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune also did an excellent article on the Von St. James family Meso journey and Heather’s radical life saving surgery,  which you can read at:
http://www.startribune.com/local/east/27512374.html?refer=y   Healthy and Cancer Free, how truly wonderful is that?  As you can see they did the two most important things that anyone can do when confronted with an uncommon and incurable cancer.  They became their own best advocates, and researched all they could, and then found the absolutely best mesothelioma specialist in the country.  They stacked the deck in their favor as best they could and the result was miraculous.  Thank you for your story of love, commitment, and HOPE.  And as always, may God Bless your myeloma Journey/ Gary Petersen editor@myelomasurvival.com

For more information on multiple myeloma go to www.myelomasurvival.com