I'll turn it over to my guest blogger, Heather Von St. James:
A characteristic I possess that family and friends have consistently pointed out to me throughout my life is optimism. I take that as a compliment. My rose-colored glasses help me see the world in a better light. My half-full cup takes little to runneth over. I took my positive outlook for granted until I was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 36-years-old. The diagnosis came just over three months after the birth of my only child and optimism pulled me through it.
The diagnosis came on November 21, 2005. That day, my doctor told me I have malignant pleural mesothelioma. I was shocked. Caught up in the joys of newfound parenthood, no one would have been prepared for that. Nonetheless, there I was, listening to my doctor tell me, "You have cancer." The obvious choice faced by everyone going through what I went through that day is to throw your hands up in defeat or tackle the problem before you. I was lucky. I had a pair of rose-colored glasses and a half-full cup. I decided to utilize them and fight. I had a baby girl that needed raising and I was determined to do it.
Those who have never been diagnosed with cancer will find the following odd, but it is true that cancer is both a good and a bad thing. Yes, it was horrifying. It was a worst-case scenario at the worst possible time. However, my life has taken on an even more positive spin. I have become stronger. I have become a fighter. I have perfected the art of making light of devastating circumstances. My rosy glasses are now rainbow-colored and I found the pot of gold. I found that even the most heartbreaking of circumstances could lend a person purpose -- purpose that they can share with others.
What saved me from fear and self-pity was not only optimism. It was an oath to help others like me. I wanted to give some of my hope to others. First, I went to the world's leading specialist on my disease. I joked that my tumor was Punxatawny Phil, given that my scheduled tumor removal surgery was on Groundhog Day in 2006. My family and I now celebrate Lungleaving Day in lieu of Groundhog Day. My lung left, but I made it through that day. We are celebrating the hope that comes with treatment and fighting.
Heather and her family
Heather Von St. James is a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.