never abandon hope – blog by guest author

Posted on: February 26, 2013

I have been approached by Cameron Von St. James, who asked whether he could write a post for my blog as a caregiver.  Cameron and his wife have achieved so much together when nothing seemed possible – it is an honour to post this on his behalf. Thank you Cameron for getting in touch – I wish you and your beautiful wife happiness and many years of health

Caring for Someone With Cancer

I’ll never forget how my life changed in November of 2005. My wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. On this day, I became her caregiver. It was a responsibility I wasn’t remotely prepared for, but I knew I had to learn fast. About three months prior, we’d welcomed our only daughter, Lily into the world. We’d hoped we could spend the upcoming holidays celebrating and enjoying our lives as new parents, but it was not to be.  Life had other plans, and instead we shifted gears and began a long and difficult journey to beat cancer.

Before we even left the doctor’s office, the weight of being a caregiver hit me. After educating us about mesothelioma, the doctor recommended that we see a specialist in the disease. During that visit, Heather seemed overwhelmed. She looked like she just wanted someone to wake her up from this nightmare. I knew I needed to help her in any way that I could. I told the doctor that we’d see the specialist in Boston.

The next two months of our lives were hectic to say the least. Before this, Heather and I held full-time jobs. However, my wife had to quit hers to focus on getting better. I dropped my hours to part time, in order to be there to care for her and Lily. When I was off the job, I cared for our daughter, took my wife to the doctor and made plans for our travel. It was overwhelming. I truly worried that despite all this effort, my wife would die and I’d be left alone caring for a small child alone and penniless. On several occasions, my fear sent me bawling on our kitchen floor. Fortunately, despite my despair, the helplessness would soon fade. We were surrounded by family, friends and perfect strangers that were eager to offer us comfort and assistance of all kinds. We’ll never forget these generous souls who came to us in our time of need.


For anyone else in this position, I strongly advise that you take any and all help that is offered to you. It’s that much less that you’ll have to deal with on your own, and at the very least it will remind you that you are not alone in the fight.  Allow yourself to have bad days, but even when you do always remember to never give up hope. 

Over several years, our lives gradually returned to normal. After months of difficult treatment for mesothelioma, Heather beat her disease despite the odds, and she’s still healthy and with us today. This terrible experience has taught me that my persistence can be an advantage and that our time here is irreplaceable and precious.


In light of all of these lessons, I chose to go back to school for information technology and finally accomplish my dream of earning my degree.  After learning how to handle stress while managing commitments, I felt prepared for it. I graduated at the top of my class with honors and was chosen as my class speaker. In my speech, I said that if you’d asked where I thought I’d have been just a few years earlier, I would never have thought I’d be on stage giving that speech. I told my fellow graduates how my wife proved to me that within each of us is the strength to accomplish the impossible. It’s important to never abandon hope and that, if we just believe in ourselves, we can achieve anything we desire.


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