"If you want to view paradise, simply look around and
view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the
world... there's nothing to it."
I have had the pleasure in the last year to be approached or messaged by people I don't know. They come with the same message. Support and encouragement. I recently received an email from a man whose name is Cameron Von St. James who read my blog and wondered if he could guest blog on The Rising. You can read his families story through his blog which I will add below.
I realized his story is one of hope and most of all a story of love. I remember the day last year when I had my surgery and found out that although my breast was gone, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. High on morphine and sitting in my bed at the hospital texting to friends and family, I got a message from a friend that said " love won today", and so it did. So I relate to his story and the message he wants to share about his experience. I have spent time lately looking at a lot of other peoples stories and the one continuous theme is bravery, strength and resilience.
Please enjoy this entry from Cameron
Choosing Love and Life
It is hard for anyone to imagine taking on the role of a caregiver for their spouse. After my wife's diagnosis of mesothelioma, I was left facing this position. As my wife often notes, it is hard to imagine what facing this disease causes a person to deal with. I rarely share my experiences concerning my struggle. However, my experience is one that leaves me filled with hope. Lily, our only daughter, was born three months prior to the diagnosis. The celebrations for the addition to our family had to be short-lived. Our joy was replaced with trepidation and a future that was unclear. When the words left the doctor's mouth, my eyes quickly met with my wife's tearful expression. Our thoughts seem to echo each other. We were wondering how we would persevere. I could feel myself slipping away from reality as the news overwhelmed me. On the verge of despondency, the voice of the doctor caught my attention. Back in reality, the truth set in. Despite the emotional strain I was feeling, my wife and I were going to face difficult medical decisions together. After the feeling of shock had passed, I felt a bubbling mixture of anxiety, anger, and depression. I was having trouble talking to people without slipping into irrational fits of anger. Even people that were supporting our family became victims of my outbursts. Church members and doctors often had to calm me down. With time, however, I was able to keep my rage in check. The resiliency of our entire family relied on my leadership. Although I still had moments of weakness, I embraced my position as a role model for strength. I did my best to hide my fear from my wife in particular. It was my hope that our confidence and optimistic outlooks could feed off of one another. It sounds wonderful here, but accomplishing these things in reality was much more difficult. Of course, life had to move on as if there were nothing wrong. Groceries had to be bought, and the bills had to be paid. Work did not let up. I had to incorporate all of these aspects of day-to-day living around travel plans and care for our daughter and pets. Prioritizing was the key to staying calm. Organizing around the most important tasks was essential. Accepting help from others was another crucial factor. While I was resistant at first, I quickly realized that helping hands were a blessing. I hate to think of the difficulties should we have had to face the situation alone. Despite the help and my grateful attitude, there were still times that life felt like too much to handle. My wife, Heather, still recalls a period of time that was particularly trying. Heather had just undergone surgery in Boston. She flew to South Dakota to stay with her parents as she recovered. She needed to have plenty of strength, as she was to undergo chemotherapy and radiation for her next round of mesothelioma treatment. While I was at home working, our daughter was with Heather and her grandparents. For two more months our heads were above water, but I was only able to see my daughter and my wife once. Seeing them was no easy task. The weekend began, and I made an 11 hour trip overnight to see them. We were well into the winter, causing me to endure snowstorms for nearly the entire journey. My body was totally exhausted by Saturday morning. However, my heart kept me going. I was able to spend the entire day and a small part of Sunday morning with my family. As the weekend came to a close, I made the return trip for work the following Monday morning. Time away from family is extremely difficult. I never viewed it as a loss, however. It was what had to be done to save my family. Working, supporting Heather, and taking care of Lily at the same time would have been too much. There is no regret that I feel regarding my choices. They were choices that had to made at the time. We were faced with the difficulties because of the cancer diagnosis, but my comfort resides in the fact that we had the ability to actually make choices that could change the situation for the better. From this experience, I learned humility. I also learned the importance of having the ability to make difficult choices that are for the greater good. When faced with an uncertain future, these are the things that give us strength. The kindness of others, and the collective strength of love allows us to face any obstacle.