When my sister, Cheryl suggested that my little granddaughter, Shai, who was only ten years old, spend the last month of her summer vacation taking care of our parents, while Dad was recovering from a very serious set of circumstances beginning with Pancreatitis, and Mom was beginning treatment for a Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma of the brain, I was sceptical, but Cheryl argued that Shai was a mature ten year old, and she could do it. I worked nearby, and could easily get to my parents house in a matter of minutes, and so it was settled. Shai made me so proud. She was like a professional nurse. I checked in with her, and she called me sometimes, but I never had to go over and rescue her. I went at lunch to help out, but my girl…well, she could handle it, and there was no doubt about it. Shai saved us that August. By the time school started again, Mom was enough better to help out with Dad, and handle most things that came up.
There are girls…and boys too, who just have that capability. They understand the things that need to be done, and they aren’t afraid to step up and do what is needed. They don’t look at the enormity of the situation, failure never enters their mind, they don’t seem to know the word can’t…they just do. I don’t say that my girl was the only girl like that, but I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled that situation.
I was looking through some information in my Uncle Bill’s family history books, and I came across something that I didn’t know about before, but found very interesting. When my Uncle Bill was just a baby, my grandparents owned a hotel in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. The family lived in the hotel, and grandma ran it, while my grandfather was working at the papermill. It’s pretty hard to run a hotel, which most likely included cooking meals to sell to the guests, and still take care of a baby and a ten year old girl. But, my Aunt Laura was not an ordinary ten year old girl…she was a mature ten year old girl, like someone else I know. While her dad worked at the papermill and her mom ran the hotel, my Aunt Laura took care of her little brother, Bill. He was a tiny little baby, and needed a lot of care, but that didn’t faze that ten year old girl. She had a job to do, and according to Uncle Bill’s writing, she did it very well. Taking care of a baby is no easy job…especially for a ten year old girl with little training. It didn’t matter. She was a mature ten year old, and she learned quickly, and in the end, her care for her little brother not only made her parents proud…it made her little brother very proud of what his big sister had done for him. A ten year old girl…can be amazing indeed, sometimes.
A few days ago, I received an email from a man named Cameron Von St James. He had read my blog, and knew from many of my stories that I have spent much of the last 7 1/2 years being a caregiver. It doesn’t matter what the illness is, when the need is serious, caregivers step up to provide much of the day to day care for those they love. It is a sacrifice that goes above and beyond what many people are able to grasp, and one that is rewarding beyond what most people will ever know. Cameron knew that story as well as I did, and he asked if I might share his wife’s story of survival with my readers.
Cameron’s wife, Heather was exposed to asbestos when her dad worked in construction. At the age of 36, just 3 months after giving birth to their beautiful daughter, Lily, they would receive the terrifying diagnosis of…Mesothelioma. No one knew what the dangers were back then. Sadly, that is the case with so many dangerous substances. By the time we know the dangers, so many people are already affected, but with new research, staying hopeful and positive and with much prayer, more people are beating cancer. It is my belief that our faith in God and His mercy and love for us is vital. I am so pleased that Heather has been blessed with a great victory over a type of cancer that almost always carries with it a death sentence.
Heather’s fight began at almost the same time as my mother’s brain tumor, and my cousin, Jim’s fight with Mesothelioma. My mother’s story had a happy ending in that her cancer was confined to her brain only, and had not started somewhere else in her body, which would have been much harder to cure. It is rare for a tumor to be found only in the brain. Her doctor, an amazing faith filled man named Dr Mills, told us that we were blessed in that hers was “just a Lymphoma” and it should be an easy fix. While hers could not be removed by surgery, it was a very slow growing cancer that was gone after 3 treatments, and after 6 more for good measure, she was done. She has been cancer free since January, 2007, and we give God all the glory.
Like Heather, my cousin Jim, was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. His story would not have the happy ending that Heather was so blessed to have. Jim passed away in February 1, 2006…he was 42 years old, and he never knew how he was exposed to asbestos. He left a son, Cody, who misses him terribly, as do we all. While Heather’s story will not be able to help Jim, it is my sincere hope that it will help others like Heather and Jim, who have been affected by this terrible disease. Please watch Heather’s story and read Cameron’s Blog for Caregivers, and be sure to pass them on to your friends. It is the hope of the Von St James family that it “might raise awareness and support for people fighting illness, and the caregivers who fight alongside them.”