Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rings of Comfort- Tokens For Remembering What's Important.

Skull ringA few weeks before winter break I received an email from Cameron, my guest blogger this week. He had found my blog and identified with many of the posts, because he has been a caregiver for  his wife Heather  since 2005. Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma* cancer at the age of 36, after having  given birth to their only child just three months earlier. She was given tough treatment choices and after surgery and chemotherapy, went on to beat all the odds. 

Heather's story is remarkable, as is her zest for living and her determination to love the life she has. 

But so is Cameron's..... 
His is a tale of great love, tremendous strength and an amazing new perspective on life that is sure to bring comfort to anyone going through a traumatic experience. 

However the lessons he has learned and the new values he has prioritized are ones we can all choose without having to experience a life crisis first. 

Please take a few minutes to read his story, share this post and leave a message for him or for me in the comments below.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Why I Wear A Skull Ring: Remembering What's Important

A diagnosis of cancer is sure to shatter anyone’s world. My wife, Heather, and I are no different. When Heather was diagnosed with plural mesothelioma* in November of 2005, our lives were turned upside down. Many of the changes we experienced could have been expected. Heather’s diagnosis brought chaos and uncertainty. We could plan a week or two in advance at best. Our lives revolved around hospital visits and tests. We became familiar with the inside of several hospitals and medical terminology. I was only working periodically between trips to the hospital and spending time with family. Our daily routine was destroyed.

After awhile, the chaos started to subside-- Heather’s surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation were an outstanding success. My fears about Heather’s health had diminished. Trips to the hospital became less frequent and Heather was getting stronger every day. As the chaos cleared, it became apparent I was no longer the same person I was pre-cancer diagnosis. My values had changed.

LungLeavin Day
I no longer place an emphasis on items that can be replaced.

If something can be bought or built, it can be replaced.

It‘s the things I can’t replace that I value.

Friendship, love, and family just to name a few.

One of the results of my new values is a greater emphasis on holidays and tradition. Heather and I have even started our own family tradition called Lungleavin' Day. It is a celebration of life every February 2nd, the day Heather had her extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery. We surround ourselves with friends and family, write our fears on plates and smash them in a bonfire.

Another one of the changes are rings. I have started to wear rings. I currently wear four rings and yes, one is a skull ring. Each ring serves as a reminder of something that is important to me. I love the fact that throughout the day, every time I look at my hands and see my rings, they remind me of things I find important and value.

One is an anniversary gift Heather got for me that reminds me of her love and our time together. I have one that is a motorcycle tire – for my love of riding motorcycles, a passion that borders on an obsession at times. Of course I wear my wedding ring. Not only does this ring remind me of Heather, but I also think about our daughter Lily whenever I look at it. It reminds me of family and commitment. And right next to my wedding band is a skull ring.

Von St. James family
I’ve wanted a skull ring for some time now. Heather found this one for me when she was visiting her family in South Dakota. Yes, it came from Sturgis. 

I don’t wear a skull ring because of its macabre nature or because I am leather clad biker.

 I wear a skull ring as a reminder that life is short and every moment needs to be lived to the fullest.

 I wear it as a reminder to treat each day as a gift and to take nothing for granted. 

I find it comforting whenever I reach for a glass of water, or pick up a pen, or type on the keyboard, whenever I look at my hands, there are my rings. 

Reminding me of what I value and to live each and every day to the fullest.

Listen to an audio summary on Mesothelioma Cancer.
*Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen.
Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases. Although uncommon, mesothelioma cancer is no longer considered rare. The primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
Making a correct mesothelioma diagnosis is particularly difficult for doctors because the disease often presents with symptoms that mimic other common ailments. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy have helped to improve the typical mesothelioma prognosis.

Pleural mesothelioma (affecting the lung’s protective lining in the chest cavity) represents about three quarters of all mesothelioma incidence.

Cameron Von St. James

Cameron Von St. James

You can read more about Cameron, Heather and their journey  HERE

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  1. As I get older I feel that I'm also coming to value the important things but not because of a health crisis rather because motherhood has made me aware of how fragile our lives are. If we can survive financially and have our health I'm happy - anything more is a luxury.

  2. I agree. When you take on responsibility for children I think priorities and needs versus wants change drastically. Getting priceless things like sleep, good health, adult time and time spent with people you love are certainly at the top of my list.

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  6. .Great looking urban art. I am so glad to get a peek at it!