It's been almost 10 years since the light switch of my life was flipped, changing its color forever; 10 years since I was diagnosed with cancer -- with malignant pleural mesothelioma. It's also nearing my 10-year anniversary as a survivor. The tragic part of this story? The cause of this disease is known, and it's preventable. A natural mineral, far from harmless.
I've been blessed with ten more years I didn't think I'd have, and through my journey I've discovered a purpose for the life I'm able to live that's bigger and more important than I could've ever dreamed up. Personal stories are powerful, and I'm more determined than ever to use mine to fuel and propel a life-saving mission forward. With my story, I aim to bring awareness to asbestos, the deadly cancer-causing mineral that found its way into my lungs when I was a child. This substance needs to be banned, once and for all.
When my lung was removed, hope took its place. Along with my beautiful family and friends, that hope has kept me alive, happy, and moving forward.
This message of hope is what I wish to spread leading up to my ten year anniversary, with Beating the Odds: My Decade of Survivorship. Each month for the next 10 months, I am writing a chapter that encapsulates a feeling, moment, or event experienced during my cancer journey. Much like a traditional serial, this online series is meant to allow a growing community to read a story together, one chapter at a time.
Part 1 begins where I began: in Shock. A doctor's visit meant to determine what was causing my fatigue, pale complexion and shortness of breath turned into more than I had bargained for. Cancer? Mesothelioma -- a disease rare for young women, and rare to survive.
From where? From what? From wearing my father's dusty work jacket, which harbored a danger invisible to us all.
Then, naturally, the Fear and Denial settled in. There were a number of fears -- what about Lily, my daughter? What about the family and life I had worked so hard to build with my husband, Cam? What does a life with cancer look like? What does a body with cancer look like? What if the surgery fails, and I die?
Then came Treatment and, eventually, Healing. There was surgery, followed by chemotherapy that tried to break my spirit. With a little bravery and a lot of love, support, and prayer, it failed to do so. Instead, I became stronger. A fire was lit.
The fears don't go away, but the important thing is that I face them. I want others to feel like they can do the same, no matter the adversity they are facing. As the fourth chapter I'm currently writing will show, there will always be Loss and Setbacks. But that's where survival comes in, where hope works its magic. Keep moving forward, and you're a survivor.
I'm just one of countless cancer survivors. I'm just one person out of too many who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma -- some who are just beginning their journey, some whose journeys have come to a heartbreaking end. This story is for them.
And, this story is for you, to make you aware of this disease. To make you aware of the fact that asbestos is still legal in the U.S.
Finally, this story is meant to show the world what hope can do. I'd be honored if you joined me on this journey into the past, present, and future.