A Mother's Story: Heather Von St. James


For us parents, one of our greatest fears (among others) is not being able to see our children grow up.  Imagine becoming a mother for the very first time to a beautiful little girl, she’s everything you’ve ever wanted (and more), then three months later, you’re grappling with the news that you have cancer and only have three moths to live.  How do you wrap your head around that?  Instead of enjoying the next following months nurturing your baby, enjoying every single milestone, you end up miles away from her, fighting for your life with every ounce of strength you have in you.

This isn’t a scare story not one of those ‘what ifs’ you sometimes hear, followed by a hush, an uncomfortable silence and then the sudden talk about the weather.  It did happen.  It happened to one mother, her name is Heather Von. St. James.  This is her story and the good news is that, she is here to tell it too.  As I’m typing this, there are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, close friends who are living with this very fear we dread.  Hoping it won’t happen to us, to any of our loved ones or close friends.  But it does happen.  It can happen to anyone.

The 4th of January is World Cancer Day 2015 and in honour of that, I am sharing her story.


Heather St. James was 36, when she gave birth to her lovely little girl named Lily Rose.  After three months, she was diagnosed with  pleural mesothelioma, a kind of cancer that is caused by asbestos.  Her dad worked in construction and as a child, she liked to wear her dad’s work-coat at home.  Unknown to her and everyone, there was a silent killer that clung to that coat.  Years later, it would threaten to kill her.

After a life-saving surgery that removed her left lung, she survived this deadly cancer and is able to care and be there for her lovely little girl.

Today marks her 9th year anniversary of the removal of her lung, which she and her family calls Lung Leaving Day.  You can watch her heartwarming story here:

Heather’s greatest fear is for the cancer to come back,  so in celebration of her Lung Leaving Day, her family and closest friends, get together and write their fears on plates, and then smash them in a fire.  She invites you to join in, identify your greatest fear and smash it.  You can do so by clicking here.


Have you said your goodbyes to your fears?  I have.  My greatest fear is losing my daughter and just like Heather, not being able to see and be there for her when she grows up.  I know it is an irrational fear, since I am healthy (knock on wood), but I also know that it can also happen to me.  It can happen to anyone (as mentioned already). In commemorating Heather’s Lung Leaving Day, I too have smashed my fears.

What is your greatest fear?

Do share Heather’s story too.


  1. Hi Dean,
    Thanks for sharing Heather’s story and I will share it once I get through a few posts. I’m in the middle of a few series. This is a story I have been living with for almost 9 years as I battle a rare auto-immune disease which affects my muscles, lungs and skin. Like Heather, I am fortunate because I have treatment and doing well these days but a close friend who has a daughter the same age as mine went to her doctor wi8th similar symptoms and came back with a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease or ALS. Another friend who has been battling and beating MS, developed bowel cancer but the symptoms were mistaken as complications of the MS and it really was two advanced leaving behind a 2 year old daughter 2 weeks ago. I can’t emphasise enough the need for medical research to provide not only to provide cures but also effective treatment. I am only here because I had treatment xx Rowena

    • Hi Rowena,

      Thank you so much too for sharing your story! I’m going to hope and pray for your continued good health and I’m so sorry to hear about your friends, it breaks my heart to hear about young children who lose their parents at such a young age. Two years ago, an aunt of mine went down that road too and she wasn’t as lucky. It happened to fast too. After the diagnosis, she underwent a treatment, then an operation, and then a few days later, she was gone. Her kids, my two cousins, are adults, one in her mid 20s and the other in his early 30s. Despite their age, it wasn’t easy for them to lose their mother. At the end of the day, whether you’re young or old, it never is easy is it, especially when you’re close to that parent. I still worry about my uncle. He’s a young 60, really looks more like 40! He claims he’s doing good, it’s been almost 2 years now and he still walks around looking a bit distracted 🙁

      • Thanks, Dean. My grandmother’s Mum died when she was in her 80s and my grandmother would have bene in her late 50s. Her Mum’s death hit her pretty hard and she used to get quite annoyed when people asked her how old she was because for her age, didn’t matter. She was her Mum. At the same time, when a child loses their parent, they are often denied the ability to get to know their parent and to get the feedback and memories only a parent can give where you have known your child all their lives and remember all those anecdotes. Hope your uncle goes okay.

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