Happy Lung Leavin’ Day 2015 – The Mesothelioma Story

A week and a half ago, I was approached by someone on my blog asking me to email him because he had something to ask me.

I’m paranoid by trade and by upbringing. Not only was I a BRAT and an Army wife, where we are raised to understand OPSEC and how to become a hard target; I also work as an IT Security Consultant where I am extremely aware of spam, phishing, vulnerabilities, identity theft, and cyber bullying. Heck, I’ve had to track down and contact a couple of people who were using my email address to set up accounts in their name with their personal identifying information, to include a credit card. Had I been a bad person, I could very easily have ruined a few people’s lives. But I’m not. (you can read about this here, in my article called Am I A Victim? – Reverse Social Engineering).

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m naturally paranoid when something like this comes my way. I googled his name and email address. I looked him up on Facebook. Everything pointed to a legitimate plea. Even my first impression of his request gave me a hint to legitimacy due to the way it was written. But, I always err on the side of caution. I asked TheHubs. I asked a friend. It took me all day to weigh the odds. I even set up a secondary email address, just for this blog before I emailed him.

What I had found out about Mr. Von Saint James was accurate. And it was a legitimate email with a request for help. He told me what he wanted and I agreed. It was a no-brainer.

Lung Leavin’ Day is a nickname given to the day that Heather had her lung removed.  While LungLeavin’ Day is technically February 2nd, her husband wants to spread awareness throughout the month of February. Here’s a little about her story:

1Nine years ago, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. She had just had a baby and was given 15 months to live. After surgery to remove her left lung, Lung Leavin’ Day was born.

Heather continues to survive. This is her 9th LungLeavin’ Day celebration! The purpose of this holiday is to encourage others to face their fears. Each year, they gather around a fire in our backyard with their friends and family, write their biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. They celebrate for those who are no longer with them, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, they celebrate life!

You can see Heather’s interactive page mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday that tells the full story of their special day.

After reading their story, so many fears came flooding back. This, THIS is one of our biggest fears. Mesothelioma is not pretty. And usually, it’s a death sentence. TheHubs was a heavy-wheeled mechanic in the Army for 13.5 years. The first nine were spent in an asbestos insulated motor pool changing out asbestos breaks on military vehicles. Normally, a tour in the Army lasts 3 to 4 years. Unfortunately, the way the paperwork went for him during Team Spirit, The First Gulf War, Somalia, and a couple of cancelled PCS moves, he ended up staying in the same unit, at the same post, in the same motor pool for 9 years. This is unheard of. He watched three or four rotations of personnel while he stayed.

The thought of cancer from asbestos always tickled the back of our minds, but it was what it was and there was nothing we could do about it. It wasn’t until the Army contracted a company to survey the motor pool, remove the asbestos from the building, and then document all the personnel into some national database somewhere (they never told us where) did we start to figure it was serious. There was a problem with the contract, too. They only removed the asbestos from the walls. The ceiling remained untouched. TheHubs remembers having the insulation falling from the ceiling every day but nothing was ever done, even after the “renovation.” At least, not while he was there.

We moved on. The Army stopped using so much asbestos in their brake parts. They renovated the old buildings. But honestly, I don’t trust much of the “renovations” anymore after the motor pool fiasco, and after so many contracts I’ve worked on over the years with the government. I have seen and experienced so many things, how can I trust the government?

Over the last 5 years, we’ve seen so many lawyer ads on the TV about Mesothelioma that it’s constantly in our face. We know that it can take between 25-50 years to manifest, IF it manifests. Well, we are now at the 25 year mark from his first exposure. And now we learn that you can contract this through second-hand exposure. That means, even MY chances of contracting Mesothelioma are great because he would come home and I would snuggle up with him while he was still in uniform, and I washed his clothes. Not only that, now that I look back, I’ve lived and worked in government buildings since the day I was born.

Even today I wonder if about the place I’ve worked for the last 12 years. My co-worker dried her hardest to have a fish tank here. Everything died. Even when she used distilled water, everything died. She took it home and the fish thrive. Makes you wonder. I mean it is an old WWI building. It was even considered a Fallout Shelter once. The sign has since gone missing. I always wonder about sick office syndrome because of all this. But now, I wonder about asbestos in all those other military buildings I lived and worked in. Only time will tell. We just keep praying that it will not bless us on top of everything else that bless our lives.

We’ve already had to deal with lung cancer in our family. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer on September 11, 2001, the same day the Towers Fell. It was not due to his smoking, but it scared him enough to quit (for a little while, anyway). My father was exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam. That’s what caused his cancer.

This experience changed my image of my father for me. He was my indestructible strong man. My Superman. To see him mortal, laying in the hospital room, he looked so small and frail.   But I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t break down in front of my mom. I had to be her strength. I had to be my dad’s strength. (and I am still trying to find out why I have always put that on me.)

He’s been cancer free since his surgery. We’ve been very lucky with that. I admire Heather and her family. They beat the odds and they came out the other side with a glorious outlook. I admire their dedication and willingness to help others. Their story is inspiring. I hope you will take the time to check it out. And if you need resources or reference material for Mesothelioma, please see below:

Here is a video where Heather goes into detail of her experiences as well: http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/

There’s always hope in the face of darkness. I will always hold on to these stories. They will get me through if ever we are blessed with Mesothelioma.

God Bless you The Von St. James’

Heather and Family


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