The holiday is a time to celebrate with family and friends and express thanks for the blessings received throughout the year. In August of 2005, we were looking forward to celebrating our first Christmas holiday as parents. We were making plans about which traditions we would continue with our daughter, but our holiday tradition plans were put on hold when my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with cancer three days before Thanksgiving.
Lily was only three and one-half months old when her Mom was diagnosed with pleural malignant mesothelioma. In a single afternoon, we shifted gears from holiday planning to fighting cancer. The little I knew about mesothelioma was enough for me to know that the future was very uncertain for my family. The more we found out, the more I could only see the worst-case scenario.
Even though we received her diagnosis, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with Heather’s family. Over holiday dinner, we discussed how we would get through the difficult time together. I recall this conversation being one of the worst times of my life. I never anticipated I would be spending Thanksgiving talking about cancer and the financial difficulties it would bring, but that is largely what our conversation consisted of. I remember thinking, “So much for the holidays!”
Over dinner, we discussed how we would handle the diagnosis financially. Heather’s family told us which bills they could help with and which assets could be liquidated to care for her. I was mortified, but we had no other options. Both Heather and I were working before her diagnosis. Without her income, our funds were diminishing fast, and our expenses growing out of control. I was overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Several years passed before I could really understand what that day truly meant. I was ashamed and overwhelmed while I was sitting at the table, but our family dropped everything to be by our side. They were willing to help in any way possible, including making huge sacrifices of their own. My pride and my inability to ask for help blinded me to how lucky I was. It would be a long time before I could see that.
This holiday season I would like to take a moment and remember what we have to be thankful for every gift we have been given. From the kindness and love of family and friends to our healthy little girl, we have much to celebrate. Thank you to the people that touched our lives and helped us when we needed help. I have so many reasons to celebrate this holiday season. My wife has been healthy for over 6 years, despite the poor odds for mesothelioma patients. We’ve celebrated many holidays together, and I’m confident that we’ll have many, many more. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and comfort to other families battling cancer this holiday season.
Posted on behalf of Cameron, his wife Heather and their daughter Lily with warm wishes for many happy holidays to come.