I think that with the awful elementary school massacre having occurred  in Newtown, Connecticut today, Cameron Von St. James’ post about being thankful for his wife and child is something that everyone can connect with even easier. He has decided to let me choose when to post his story, and I think today has shown us how terribly easy it is to loose a loved one in an instant.

This is his story.

Being Thankful Despite Cancer Through the Holidays

In August 2005, my wife Heather and I welcomed our only child. Our daughter, Lily, brought so much joy to our lives. A few short months later, we were looking forward to the holiday season with much excitement. See, the holidays were always a special time for me, and having Lily complete our little family made them even more special. Heather and I spent a lot of time excitedly discussing new traditions we wanted to start with Lily and how special that time of year was going to be now that we had our baby girl. Little did we know that the holidays that year would be far from the perfect celebration we were hoping for.

Three days before Thanksgiving, when Lily was only three and a half months old, our happiness was taken away from us when Heather’s doctor informed us that she had pleural malignant mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly form of cancer. The little I knew about mesothelioma was enough for me to know that our future was very uncertain. I was no longer happy and thankful and looking forward to the holidays. I was angry and upset, overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t feel that we had a reason to celebrate, but we celebrated anyway.  After all, we were facing a possibility where this could be Lily’s only holiday season with her mother.

Heather’s family came to our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year, and as we dined on our holiday dinner, we had the conversation I’d been dreading for a while. We discussed our finances and how we would pay for everything through Heather’s treatment. Every debt, bill, and asset we had was talked about. We discussed what we could liquidate, what my in-laws could afford to pay for on our behalf, and how we’d manage to keep our heads above water during that time. Heather and I both had jobs, but the bills just kept piling up what with the medical expenses and travel expenses we had.  I was mortified and embarrassed, and it would be years before I could look back on that day with anything but shame.  However, I eventually realized how mistaken I was to look at it from that perspective.

My pride may not have allowed me to see this at the time, but I actually had a lot to be thankful for that holiday season. I had a family who was willing to give up everything they could in order to help us out when we needed it the most. They made incredible sacrifices to be by our sides and they helped us through it in so many ways. This holiday season, I am thankful for that. I am also thankful to have more time with my wife so that my daughter and I can make as many memories as possible with her. Even in the darkest of times, there is always something to be thankful for this time of year.

Heather and I have been able to spend seven Christmases together with Lily since then, and there are many more to come.  She has beaten mesothelioma, despite the odds, and for that I am most thankful.  I hope that our story of success can be a source of hope and inspiration to all those currently fighting cancer this holiday season.


Cameron Von St. James

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