Mesothelioma Victim’s Journey Profiled on National News Website

Most people’s familiarity with malignant mesothelioma comes from late-night television ads urging victims to contact attorneys, but thanks to a profile on survivor Heath Von St. James, the rare and fatal form of cancer is getting a big boost of attention.

Woman Commemorates Mesothelioma Surgery with Annual “Lungleavin’ Day”

As told to Yahoo Life, when Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, she was in the prime of her life – in fact, it was 2005 and she had just given birth to her daughter. Noting that she’d gained just 5 pounds in the pregnancy and was losing weight quickly afterwards, as well as her extreme level of exhaustion and breathlessness, she sought help from her physician. She was diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease shortly thereafter.

She received the same prognosis that nearly every other mesothelioma victim is given: 15 months to live unless she had aggressive treatment. She chose to undergo extrapleural pneumonectomy, a controversial surgery that removed her left lung, the lining of her heart, the left half of her diaphragm and one of her ribs. 

Recovery from Mesothelioma Surgery a Challenge 

In marking the anniversary of her mesothelioma surgery as an annual holiday, Von St. James and her family celebrate her getting her life back, but acknowledge that she did so only following a grueling recovery. She told Yahoo, “The recovery was brutal because I had to follow up surgery with chemotherapy and radiation. Having one lung, your breathing capacity is literally cut in half. People often ask me how long before everything is back to normal and I’m like, ‘Never.’ You have to adjust your entire way of life after a cancer diagnosis.”

Heather Von St. James knows exactly where her malignant mesothelioma came from. She told the Yahoo reporter of her father’s years of working in construction and mining, and of his asbestos-covered coat that she wore whenever she went out to feed her rabbits or do yard work. Today she is a noted and accomplished advocate for mesothelioma research and is co-chair of the community advisory board for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, having the resources and knowledge you need to move forward is essential. For help, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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