H3 Blog. Health, Hope, and Happiness

Throw Your Fears Into The Fire

February 2, 2014 | by HVSJ12


end of life Three and a half short months after her daughter was born, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer and told she only had 15 months to live. Today, she is eight years cancer-free and has turned her survival into an annual celebration. Read more.

Having a sense of humor can help you through the toughest times. Thankfully, humor is something that I was blessed with and an attribute my husband, Cameron, and I relied on when I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in November 2005. In order to increase my chances of survival, I underwent a risky surgery, called extrapleural pneumonectomy, which required the removal of my left lung, half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.

The fact that I was a new mother made this situation even more complicated. My first and only child, Lily, would be turning six months old just two days after my surgery. Luckily, I was still able to find humor in this trying situation. When I found out my surgery would take place on Groundhog Day, I nicknamed my tumor Punxsutawney Phil. I joked that if my tumor saw its shadow during removal, I would have another 6 weeks of recovery. Even my sister joined in on the fun by naming this day I lost my lung, LungLeavin' Day.

What is LungLeavin' Day?

My sister and Cameron discussed ways we could commemorate this special day. My sister, who's familiar with fire walking, suggested writing our fears on an object to be burned in the fire. Since this idea seemed a bit daunting, Cameron suggested that we should write our fears on plates and then smash them into a fire instead.

On the anniversary of my surgery, Cameron purchased two plates and a sharpie and we wrote our fears on these plates. Despite the cold weather, we took these plates out to the fire pit and smashed them into the fire together. This was so cathartic that Cameron and I decided to extend this special event to family and friends.

Now, LungLeavin' Day has grown to include over 75 people. Cameron and I decided that we wanted to use this day to fundraise for a few organizations that have become very important to us: the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

This celebration is for everyone who wants to overcome your fears. We even get the children involved by having them write their fears on paper plates to be burned in the fire. Lily looks forward to LungLeavin' Day each year.

This year we hope to get even more people to participate in LungLeavin' Day. We are streaming the event live via my Facebook page and also created an interactive webpage where fears can be smashed virtually. We hope you'll join us!

What fears are you going to throw into the fire?

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(Image courtesy of the author)

Heather Von St. James is a wife, mother and mesothelioma survivor. Upon her diagnosis, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves in a similar situation. Now, over 7 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Read Heather's blog here and connect with her on IHC under the username HVSJ12.

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