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Lily’s Village

12 May Posted by in Guest Post | Comments
Lily’s Village
Within the last two weeks I have read online stories pitting Euro Moms against American Moms, and I just don’t like it.

On this website, I tend to write a lot about being an Expat, more often than I write about Mommy incidents.

And that’s because I’ve found that although there may be different government laws and regulations between countries, what it really comes down to is that we are all mothers together just doing the best job we know how to do with what we have been given.

Being a mother in either country is still being a mother.

While creating a blog, you just never know with whom your paths may cross.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here is one story I would like to proudly post on Expat Mom because it is an important message that only a mother in this situation can tell. Below is a story from Heather Von St. James, an American mother from South Dakota.


Lily’s Village

When I was growing up, I had heard the old saying that it takes an entire village to raise a single child, but I couldn’t have known the true meaning of that saying until I had my daughter, Lily.  My pregnancy was typical, and on August 4, 2005, my daughter was born with just one complication—she was frank breech and I had to have an emergency C-section. Other than that, things were perfect.  Our family and friends sent us well wishes and surrounded us with love.  We were so happy, and no one could have predicted what came next.

When Lily was just over a month old, I went back to my full-time job.  I had no energy, and I was breathless just doing normal activities.  I thought I was so tired because I was a new mom, but I went to the doctor for peace of mind.  My doctor ordered many tests, and we soon found out what was wrong.

When Lily was almost four months old, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lung.  Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of this type of cancer.  When I was a child, I had been exposed to asbestos without knowing it.  Now, as an adult, I was being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer.

When I heard the diagnosis, my first thought was Lily and how I needed to be here to watch her grow.  Unless I chose an aggressive treatment, my life expectancy was about 15 months.  I knew I had to do whatever was necessary to overcome the cancer.  My husband and I left Lily with my parents and flew to Boston to one of the best doctors for mesothelioma.

On February 2, 2006, I underwent a procedure called extrapleural pneumenectomy.  During the procedure, the doctor removed my left lung.  It took 18 days to recover in the hospital and two months recovering out of the hospital.  After I recovered from surgery, I started radiation and chemotherapy.

Without a village of supporters, the trip to Boston would not have been possible.  People from our personal, church and work lives began to help us.  We learned which friends were true friends, and who wasn’t there to help us.  Funny how it took getting diagnosed with cancer to learn who our true friends are.

Lily had to live with my parents in South Dakota while we were in Boston.  Their local friends became another village to help them babysit so my parents could work.  People from the church I attended when I grew up offered to help my parents raise Lily.  In Boston, we met new friends who offered emotional support.

While I was in Boston recovering, my daughter was in South Dakota learning to eat solid food and crawl.  My mother sent pictures by email, and my husband printed them to hang in the room.  I surrounded myself with her pictures to remind me why I was doing this.  She now has a very strong bond with her grandparents that the miles between them can’t erase.
Cancer is a devastating diagnosis, but it taught us a lot about our lives.  We don’t take any day for granted, and we live life to the fullest.  We learned about the kindness and love of family, friends and even strangers.


I would like to thank Heather for sharing her story. To read more posts by Heather, you can view her blog pages at The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.



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