Guest Blogger: Heather

I’ve always loved the idea of having guest-posters here on Baking & Babies. There are so many more points of view to this whole journey-to-motherhood thing, and I think getting to hear about a whole bunch of them all in one place is awesome.

Heather, a Baking & Babies reader, and blogger extraordinaire, has a story that touched her life in a much different way. Three and a half months after giving birth to her precious baby girl, she got a diagnosis that would change her world forever. Here’s her story:

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“You have cancer,” the doctor said, changing my life forever.

Before that moment I’d never contemplated the power that three words could have over me. Adding to their weight was the fact that my life was otherwise perfect: my new baby had been born happy and healthy just three and a half months earlier, and I was so in love with her. Now, however, I was being informed that I had cancer – mesothelioma, to be exact.

Mesothelioma is mainly caused by asbestos exposure. When I explain my situation to friends and family members, they often express confusion; many people believe that asbestos was banned from use in construction. However, this is not true. The next thing they usually ask is how I came to be exposed to the deadly substance.

I believe the fact that I was diagnosed with mesothelioma after secondary exposure to asbestos really underscores just how potent it can be. You see, my dad would come home with asbestos on his clothing, accidentally exposing his family to the cancer-causing minerals. He would work on construction sites all day, coating his clothing with the stuff as he taped, mudded and sanded drywall. Microscopic asbestos fibers clung to his jacket and pants and were deposited in his car, on our furniture, and into our lungs.

I was only 36 years old when the doctor gave me the bad news, far too young for cancer – or so I thought. Before my generation began developing this disease, the average mesothelioma patient was older, male and usually someone who worked on construction sites. Former plumbers, electricians, mechanics and those who worked on military ships were typical candidates.

A new trend began to form, and the wives of these men also began appearing in doctors’ offices showing signs of mesothelioma. These women had been exposed to asbestos as they washed their husbands’ laundry, or as they greeted the men upon returning from a long day at work.

Unfortunately, the wives weren’t the only ones who suffered from secondary exposure to asbestos. The children of these workers are now grown up and beginning to be diagnosed with mesothelioma also. They are children that were just like me. When my father returned home from work I couldn’t wait to jump into his arms. Those arms, and his clothes, were coated with the substance that, after exposure over a long period of time, caused me to be diagnosed with cancer.

After my extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery and long road to recovery, I began to look for others like me. When you hear you have cancer, you want to know that you aren’t alone. I was surprised at just how many sufferers there are out there – as well as how young many are.

The best help I’ve found so far is simply the act of telling others my story. I want to bring awareness to this disease, and I feel if I can help only one person with my story, I am doing some good.

If you’re interested in following along with Heather and her story, and hearing more about her beautiful family, you can read about it here: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather

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