Guest Post by Cameron St. James.

Cameron requested to write a guest post about how he and his family dealt with his wife’s diagnosis with mesothelioma. 

A Personal Story from a Cancer Caregiver

My wife once said that she can’t fathom what I had to go through after her mesothelioma diagnosis. I have only shared my experiences with her once, but I have decided that others can benefit from hearing about my trials and tribulations.

Three months before my wife was diagnosed with cancer, she had our first and only child: our daughter Lily. We began to live with fear and doubt about our future after experiencing such a joyous time in our lives. I will never forget when the doctors gave us the diagnosis, and I heard the word “mesothelioma” for the very first time in my life.  I will admit to thinking, “How are we ever going to get through this?”

I thought I was going to have a major breakdown at that point, but I had to start thinking clearly again when the doctors began to inform and ask us about medical options.  This was the first but not the last time I would have to make hard decisions while I was dealing with emotional turmoil.

Right after my wife was diagnosed, I felt so much rage and fear. Sometimes, I couldn’t stop myself from using only profanity when talking to others. After a time, I was able to deal with my emotions better because I needed to be a strong presence in my wife and daughter’s lives. I knew they needed me, so I had to be strong and dependable. Although I still had moments where negative feelings came out, I tried to keep my emotions, especially my fear, in check around my wife. I knew she needed someone to be her rock, providing hope, a positive attitude and stability, even if it was extremely difficult at times.  

Immediately after the diagnosis, I was responsible for dealing with everything, including taking care of our daughter and pets, making travel arrangements and working at my job. At first, I didn’t know how to handle it all, but I rapidly learned the importance of completing more important tasks before others.  Although it was hard at first, I began to accept other people’s help. So many people stepped up, wanting to help us during this tough time in our lives. Even though I often still felt overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities, I wouldn’t have been able to make it without others’ help.

The two months following Heather’s surgery in Boston were probably the hardest time for me. While Heather was in Boston undergoing surgery, her parents were taking care of Lily in South Dakota. When she was recovering and getting ready for the next part of her mesothelioma treatment, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, Heather also stayed in South Dakota. During this time, I only got a chance to see Heather and Lily one time.

I drove to South Dakota in a snowstorm, traveling 11 hours at night, to see my wife and daughter.  At one point, I slept in the car while I waited for the roads to be plowed enough to become passable.  Although I was exhausted when I arrived on Saturday morning, I spent all day Saturday and a portion of Sunday morning with my wife and daughter. I had to drive home on Sunday because I couldn’t miss work.

It is hard to put into words how difficult it was to not be able to see my wife and daughter for such a long period of time, but I realize now it was necessary for them to be in South Dakota.  I wouldn’t have had the time to work and watch Lily. I don’t have regrets over the decisions my wife and I made because the cancer diagnosis forced us to have to make tough choices. I know we did what we had to, and I’m glad that we had choices.

Looking back on that time in my life, I learned a great deal about the importance of accepting others’ help during times of need. I am glad that my wife and I had options, no matter how tough the choices could be. Making decisions allowed me to feel in control during the toughest time of my life.


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