My daughter is seven years old, and she loves answering people’s
questions. One question she never has trouble with is when people ask about
my cancer. It may seem like a difficult subject for such a young child, but she
has grown up with it, and it’s a point of pride for her because she is able to say, “I
saved my mommy’s life.” She says it, and she means it. People may chuckle,
but the truth is that without her, I don’t know if I could have battled through my
disease the way I needed to. She truly did keep me from giving in.
When my husband Cameron and I got married, we decided to wait to have
children, and we had been married seven years before we made the decision to
welcome a child into our lives. It only took three months for me to get pregnant,
and I was so incredibly excited, not to mention nervous. My mind was swimming
with questions about how I would do as a mom. I wanted to make sure that I
did the very best I could for my child and hoped that I would be up to the task. I
couldn’t wait to find out.
The pregnancy was as smooth as could be, and after a delivery by C-section,
I held my daughter Lily in my arms and was absolutely flooded with a sense of
love that I had never felt before. I couldn’t get enough of her, and I knew right
then that there was nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure the safety and happiness of
this precious life entrusted to me. I never wanted to put her down. I couldn’t wait
to show the world to her and help her learn all the joys that life has to offer. The
world looked bright and wonderful.
Then came the crippling blow. When I went to the doctor just three and a
half months after giving birth to Lily, I was diagnosed with a malignant form of
mesothelioma that would kill me within 15 months unless I sought treatment
immediately. I was floored. How could this be? Cameron was my strength in
that moment as he discussed the treatment options with the doctor while I sat in
mute shock. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle all of the hurdles that lay
ahead. Cameron found the best treatment plan, and together, we decided to
go to Boston, where I had most of my left lung removed. After nearly a month
in the hospital, I went to my parents’ for another two months and finally back to
Minnesota, where I underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
It wasn’t easy going through all this, especially knowing that while I was in the
hospital, I was missing out on a vital part of Lily’s infancy. I knew, however,
that if I didn’t get the surgery right away, I probably would not be there for Lily’s
childhood. I had to be brave and sacrifice that time with her so that I could
have the hope of more time with her later. Every time I thought about her, it
strengthened my will to live, and nothing gave me more determination than
wanting to be there for her in the years to come.
Mesothelioma is a particularly deadly cancer, with only about five percent of
those diagnosed surviving it. I was one of the lucky ones, and I know that I owe
at least some of my success to my little girl who was in my mind every single
day. If you are diagnosed like I was, think of those you love who will miss you
so much if you are gone, and fight for their sake as well as your own. You’ll be
surprised at the strength you find within yourself. I didn’t know if I was going to
make it to Lily’s first birthday, but I tried my hardest, and it paid off. I didn’t give
up, and I know Lily is telling the truth when she says that she saved my life.