As an asthmatic, I’ve had my share of lung related difficulties. Thankfully though, I’ve never had lung cancer or known anyone personally who has. I am, however, that much more sympathetic to the plight. So when Heather Von St. James emailed me and asked if I’d help spread awareness by sharing a little of her story and some helpful information, I agreed.
Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a highly aggressive cancer most commonly attacking the lining of the lungs, as an adult, but learned it was caused by wearing her dad’s jacket to do outdoor chores as a child. How, you ask? It was covered in asbestos fibers. I was skeptical that a person would track the cause to something so specifically random, until I learned that Mesothelioma has exactly one known cause: exposure to asbestos. Asbestos still isn’t banned in the US. So while it’s not widely used anymore, it’s still important to know the risk factors and signs associated with lung cancer.
General risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to: asbestos, radon, industrial substances, radiation, air pollution, and more. Even plain old genetics can be a factor. Warning signs for mesothelioma specifically can be difficult to recognize, because they can take years(!) to manifest, giving the cancer ample time to progress. Symptoms can include: anemia; blood clotting; chest, abdominal, or back pain; nausea; coughing up blood; weight loss; fatigue; and more. Many of these things can be benign on their own or symptomatic of a range of other illnesses, so it’s important to be in tune with your body and take care to see a doctor when you notice something abnormal.
Treatments for lung cancer, such as Mesothelioma, can include some unpleasant experiences and can be time consuming of long periods. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are among the treatments and are often used in conjunction with one another.
Overall, lung cancer is debilitating, can be subtle – thus often discovered late, and is both miserable and (I imagine) excruciating to treat and endure. My heart goes out to survivors like Heather. Her hope, and mine, is that this post and its information reaches out and touches at least someone whom it can help.
Here are some helpful links with more information on Mesothelioma and lung cancer in general.
If you’d like to contact Heather to share your story or hear more about hers, you can find her here.