Three months after Heather Von St. James gave birth to her first child, she was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer caused by asbestos. She was told she had fifteen months to live. Fast-forward eleven years and Heather is very much alive and has dedicated her life to helping parents who are cancer patients. “My job, as an advocate, is not to tell patients the ‘right way’ to do things.” Heather says. “Those parents know their kids far better than I do. (The question is) how much do you think (your child) can handle? I know what works for my daughter. (That’s all.) It’s more important for me to support them in their decision and maybe suggest things that might work better.” Annie talks to Heather about helpful ways for parents to respond to children’s questions, concerns and worries about a parent’s health challenges and how help your child get the community support he or she needs at this time.
About Heather Von St. James (@HeatherVSJ)
Heather Von St. James is an 11-year cancer survivor, cancer research advocate, and blogger. She is a contributor to Huffington Post and offers a message of courage, inspiration and hope. Heather also serves as a mesothelioma research funding advocate and conference speaker for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. As a survivor of this often fatal asbestos disease, she considers herself to be a “poster child for hope after mesothelioma.” Learn more at Mesothelioma.com
Heather strongly recommends that kids whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment spend time around other kids who are going through the same thing. Camp Kesem, a nation-wide community driven by passionate college student leaders, supports children during and beyond their parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem is free of charge for every child who attends and is open to children who have lost a parent to cancer, have a parent who is undergoing cancer treatment, or whose parent is a cancer survivor. With 100+ college chapters from coast to coast, you can find a camp near you. Learn more at CampKesem.org
While Camp Kesem is only open to children of cancer patients, there are other camps that provide wonderful support for children who are, themselves, cancer patients or who have a sibling who is a cancer patient. Find those camp options here.
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