What Cancer Made Me Thankful For This Holiday Season (or: Yay for the guest blogger!)

This particular blog posting is from a new friend named Cameron. His wife, Heather, had mesothelioma (to my Northwoods friends, I believe Larry had mesothelioma as well. Hildra?) a very rare cancer that is usually diagnosed when there is very little time left to fight. Like GBM – there are very few folk who have been winning the battle for over 5 years.

Anyway – Cameron contacted me earlier in the week and asked if he could share part of his story with all of us. It is a wonderful and timely story. One I so needed today.

So, read, enjoy, pontificate and then go hug your loved ones.
(expect another one or two blogs to follow fairly quickly behind this one – I have news to share as well.)

And, here is Cameron:

What Cancer Made Me Thankful For This Holiday Season

I’ve always loved the holidays. It’s such as special time of year; a time when I get to focus on family, love, and the wonderful things I have in my life. In 2005, it seemed my wife, Heather and I had even more to celebrate than usual during the holiday season. We had a brand new baby girl, Lily, who was only three and a half months old at Thanksgiving. We were looking forward to our first Christmas with Lily as a family of three. We talked a lot about our family traditions during the holidays and which ones we wanted to add now that we had Lily in our family. It was such a great time.

It was such a great time until three days before Thanksgiving, when Heather’s doctor told us she had a rare and deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. We went from planning our holiday dinners and shopping trips to fighting cancer in a matter of minutes. I was angry and scared, and it wasn’t possible for me to feel thankful for anything that holiday season. I was so hurt, emotional, scared, and angry. Our first holidays as a family were, needless to say, nothing like what we’d hoped.

Heather’s family flew in to celebrate the holidays with us, and rather than celebrating with our beautiful baby girl and family, I sat around my kitchen table and listened to my wife’s parents talk about our finances, our assets, our money, and our bills. We knew we were headed to Boston to start Heather’s treatment, but we had to have this conversation first. It was uncomfortable and terrible. I didn’t want to have it. It was one of the hardest moments of my life, having this conversation. We discussed our options, what we could sell off, which bills they’d be able to help us with, and how we could get Heather the best care possible. Looking back, I have a completely different outlook on this day, but at the time, I was mortified that I had to lean on our family to get us through this.

We had to keep ourselves afloat, and even though we both worked before Heather was diagnosed, we were quickly running out of money and accruing mass amounts of medical bills. So much for our holidays, is what I thought. It may have taken me years to realize this, but that conversation wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. That day wasn’t about making me feel helpless; it was about making me realize how good I had it. We were in a tough place, but we also had a family that would drop everything in a second and offer their time and money to us so we could keep ourselves above water.  They made incredible sacrifices to help us make it through, and I realize now how lucky I am to having such a loving and caring support system.

This year during the holidays, I am focusing on how much I have to be thankful for, such as a beautiful daughter and wife, a loving family, and more time as a family.  This year will be our 7th Christmas with Lily, and we’ve gotten to create some of those holiday traditions we had planned on all those years ago.  Heather has beaten the odds and been cancer free since finishing her mesothelioma treatment over six years ago.  We hope that our story can help others currently fighting cancer find some peace and comfort this holiday season.

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