The following is a guest post by Heather Von St. James. Heather is a 5-year survivor of malignant mesothelioma. I feel honored to have the opportunity to use What’s Left Of My Head as a platform for her to offer inspiration to cancer patients and allow her to broaden their sense of optimism, awareness, and support.

By: Jackie Clark, assistant to Heather Von St. James

According to the  National Cancer Institute, mesothelioma, a cancer primarily associated with difficulty breathing, is “a rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen.” But for those who are familiar with the disease, mesothelioma is more than just another form of cancer. That’s largely because a diagnosis of mesothelioma can often be traced to something that has happened in the workplace: exposure to asbestos.

Nowadays, the dangers of exposure to asbestos have been well documented. Unfortunately, because the disease can lie dormant for a long period of time, many people who were exposed to asbestos years ago, before the dangers of exposure were fully known, are only now discovering that they have mesothelioma. To make matters worse, mesothelioma life expectancy can be adversely affected by the latent nature of the disease, which allows it to grow undetected, establishing a foothold in the body long before its presence is known.

But there is hope. There are treatments for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, vaccine therapy and immunotherapy. And, while there are several factors outside the control of the mesothelioma sufferer that can influence the outcome of treatment – for example, the size and aggressiveness of the growth and whether the cancer is localized – there are things that can be done to maximize the patience’s chances of long-term survival. While there are no guarantees, patients who eat a healthy diet and who work to maintain a good fitness level may have an improved chance of beating the disease.

Naturally, any mesothelioma sufferer who can trace their cancer back to asbestos exposure years before the discovery of their disease wishes they could travel back in time to warn themselves, but the reality is that while what you don’t know can indeed hurt you, what you do know can also help you.

The bottom line here is that while there really are no guarantees, there is no form of cancer that is always one hundred percent fatal. And, while some cancers are more deadly than others, there are usually treatment options, even when the cancer has been able to avoid detection for an extended period of time. The key is to become educated about the available treatment options while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude in order to fight the disease.

Thank you so much for sharing Heather!
You can read Heather’s full story here