Making Your Mes-othelioma Your Message

Let's Hold on Together.

Let’s Hold on Together.

It was just a few week ago that I wrote about “making your mess your message.”  I had heard the phrase declaring that “Honey, everybody’s got something” on the CBS morning show Good Morning America.  The true-to-life words were fashioned by the mother of anchor and newscaster Robin Roberts.  It is also the title of Robin Robert’s new memoir.  Her mother would always follow that statement with the wise words: “Make your mess your message.”

How ironic that shortly after that post I received an email from Heather Von St. James.  She was reaching out to me “in hopes that I would help her with a cause that is very near and dear to her heart.”  Heather writes for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance which offers an enormous amount of information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.  Her mission is to educate and inform the public about this preventable disease.

Heather’s “mess” is a disease known as mesothelioma.  Today is National Cancer Survivor Day.  Today thisoldheartblog is supporting Heather and all cancer survivors by sharing Heather’s story.  We need to spread the word about mesothelioma and its causes.  We all can learn how to achieve longer, healthier and safer lives.

Our common thread is triumph over tragedy.  We know struggles make us stronger. As Heather shares her story about surviving mesothelioma, I share my story about heart disease.  Our voice is instrumental in healing our wounds and spurring us forward.  We view our “messes” empathetically and positively in a way that we hope will make a difference in another person’s life.

Heather’s all-encompassing cause is embedded in her heart and mind and soul.  She brings an unparalleled depth of knowledge on a subject matter in terms of practical understanding.  Heather is passionate about what she believes in and strives to bring attention in the fight against cancer.  She is the voice for patients with mesothelioma.

Heather is a mesothelioma survivor.  Heather recognizes that “everyone’s got something.”  Her story with mesothelioma can be found on her blog, The Mesothelioma Cancer Blog.

“Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma at the age of 36, just weeks after giving birth to her daughter. Today, over eight years after undergoing surgery and subsequent chemotherapy treatment, Heather proudly claims the title of mesothelioma cancer survivor. Heather gratefully and passionately embraces each new day of life and lives to spread her message of hope and inspiration to all those affected by mesothelioma. Heather knows firsthand what it is like to be diagnosed with this disease as well as the issues, questions and concerns faced by patients and families alike. She is honored to be able to share her story.”

Heather’s father had worked in construction and would come home with dust all over him. As a child she would wear his work coat, unknowingly exposing herself to the asbestos he worked with daily. Mesothelioma was once considered a ‘man’s disease’, but women have swiftly become the new patient profile due to second-hand exposure.”

Mesothelioma was simply a word I heard on TV during a commercial.  I knew it was related to asbestos exposure but I never really understood what it was.

Looking at the history of asbestos, you will find it was once heralded as a life-saving material.  It was valued for its sound absorption and tensile strength as well as its resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage.  It was affordable and widely used in electrical and building insulation. Asbestos was used to insulate older homes, as well as commercial and public buildings, including some schools.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma.

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organs, known as the mesothelium. There are three recognized types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for roughly 70% of cases, and occurs in the lining of the lung known as the pleura. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum and pericardial mesothelioma originates in the pericardium, which lines the heart.”

The earlier mesothelioma is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin giving a better prognosis.

The most common presenting complaint is shortness of breath.  It is often accompanied with chest pain or cough.  Some patients are asymptomatic.  The disease is discovered by physical exam and chest x-ray.  As the disease progresses, the shortness of breath increases, followed by weight loss, decreased appetite and night sweats.  Localized invasion of the tumor can result in voice change as well as loss of function of the diaphragm.

You can read more about mesothelioma along with a discussion of treatment options, clinical trials, and important information for patients and their families at

It is comforting to read Heather’s words on her blog at  She lives faithfully and fully and speaks about how her mesothelioma made her life “messy.”  She shows us how we do not have to become victims or prisoners of our mess.  We hear Heather’s voice.  We see the relationships she is building with others.  We feel the sense of community she has initiated.

Heather is a problem-solver.  Heather is an activist.  Heather is an inspiration.

Please help her make progress in the fight against mesothelioma.

We celebrate YOU, Heather!

You are our shining star.

You show us there is life after a cancer diagnosis.

Happy National Cancer Survivor Day!

AND… I have to say it… Please take care of your heart. 

4 Comments on “Making Your Mes-othelioma Your Message”

  1. Thanks for yet another inspirational story!!!! She, too, is an inspiration. THROUGH our messes, we can be a living testament!! THANK YOU, SHARON!!!!!

    • Agreed, Heather Von James is an inspiration. We celebrate Heather and all cancer survivors today. Thank you, Theresa, for taking the time to respond.

  2. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that Thanks for lunch! egckcfdfbcge

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