How I Smashed My Fears: Heather’s Story

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Image adapted via Heather Von St James

A sense of humor is an attribute I was blessed with. Humor is what got my husband, Cameron, and me through the most difficult time of our lives. In November 2005, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. To help increase my chances of survival, I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This risky surgery required the removal of my left lung, half my diaphragm, as well as the lining of my heart.

Things were complicated by the fact that I was a new mother. To make the surgery seem less frightening, I used my sense of humor to try and make light of this difficult situation. When I learned my surgery was to take place on February 2, I decided to nickname my tumor Punxsutawney Phil. The joke was that if my tumor saw its shadow, I would have another 6 weeks of recovery! My sister joined in on the fun by naming this life-changing event. We started to call the day when I lost my lung LungLeavin’ Day.

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Image via Heather Von St James

My sister and my husband decided that we needed a way to celebrate LungLeavin’ Day. My sister, who is familiar with fire walking, threw out the idea of writing our fears on an object that was to be burned in a fire. Since the act of fire walking seemed a little daunting, Cameron decided we should write our fears on plates that could be smashed into a fire.

On the anniversary of my surgery, Cameron went out and bought two plates and a Sharpie. Despite the cold weather, we wrote our fears on these plates and headed outside where we smashed these decorated plates into the fire. We found this experience to be extremely therapeutic. Therefore, we decided to extend this event to include family and friends.

Since then, our celebration has grown to include more than 75 friends and family members. In addition, Cam and I wanted to give back to the organizations that were instrumental in helping us through our experience by collecting donations to be used for mesothelioma research. All donations received are given to The International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

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Image via Heather Von St James

LungLeavin' Day isn't just for cancer survivors; it is a day for everyone to eliminate the fears that hold us back in life. This year we will be streaming LungLeavin’ Day live via my Facebook page. We have also created an interactive page for everyone to virtually smash your fears! Hope you'll join us! 

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** Special thanks to our guest blogger this week, Heather Von St James, cancer survivor and founder of LungLeavin' Day. We’re proud to support her efforts and encourage our members to visit her pages, share with friends, and participate in LungLeavin' Day by smashing their own fears. Thank you Heather for letting us share this part of your story. 

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How I Smashed My Fears: Heather’s Story

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