Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cancer Can Suck It.

Cancer seriously can suck it. I had a really easy run-in with it in 2008 that involved getting part of my thyroid removed, three surgeries, iv therapy and a lot of mood swings. I got off super easy, but that's a blog post for another time.

My family is riddled with it. Unfortunately, have several different types of cancer infecting our family. Throat cancer, Testicular Cancer, Thyroid Cancer, Leukemia, Eye Cancer, Skin Cancer, and I am sure I am leaving some out...

My good friend Bryana just lost her grandmother to cancer.

I hope there is a cure to all types of cancer soon. I know that sounds childish and naive
But I wish it all the time. So that not one more person has to suffer.

I try to do all I can in support of all cancer research and awareness, and that's why when Heather contacted me about getting the message about her battle with Mesothelioma, I knew I had to share it.

How My Daughter Saved Me

My daughter has a unique take on my bout with cancer: she truly believes that she saved my life.  At seven years of age, she is oblivious to the amusement and skepticism others express when she shares what she knows about this matter. Their responses mean nothing, because she knows deep in her heart the truth about her vital role in my recovery.  I often find myself explaining, with great pride, exactly how little Lily saved my live when I had cancer many years ago.

After my husband Cameron and I were married, we waited for 7 years before considering adding children to our family.  At 35 years of age, I was concerned that I might face age-related difficulties during the pregnancy. I wasn't a young girl anymore.  Just 3 months after we started trying for a baby, my pregnancy test came back positive! We were going to have a child!  Just like newly pregnant mothers everywhere, my emotions were a whirlwind of shock, excitement, and apprehension all at the same time.  I thanked my lucky stars that I was at last to be a mother!  I chuckle to myself when I look back to those days and remember how quickly I fell into the role of “mommy”. I spent many quiet moments in the beginning rubbing my expanding tummy and thinking with excitement about the little baby growing within me. What type of mother would I be?  How would my child remember me?  As I pondered these things in my heart, I determined that above all else, I wanted to be a good mom to this precious child.

My pregnancy went smoothly without any complications. But the path before me took a more challenging turn when we discovered that Lily was breech.  I was rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section.  While I was disappointed about needing surgery, I decided to look at the bright side of things. I remember joking with Cameron that at least the baby’s head would be round!  It still takes my breath away when I recall the intense emotions that washed over me when I was finally able to hold Lily. In that electrically-charged moment, I was overcome with a love that I had never felt before in my life.  I felt a primal urge to protect and defend this little life in my arms, and to provide all the love, guidance, and happiness I could for her.   I wanted to hold her until the end of time, studying her beautiful face, breathing in her aroma, and protecting her from all the darkness of this world.  Our first moments together were so perfect that I could never have imagined the dark days that were just ahead for our family.

When Lily was just 3 ½ months old, I was given news that shattered my world. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.  My doctor gravely informed me that I had only 15 months to live unless I started treatment immediately.  I am so thankful for my husband’s clear thinking right after we heard this news from our doctor.  I felt frozen, thinking of Lily and how much I wanted to remain here with her and Cameron. As I struggled with this news, Cams listened while the doctor provided treatment options for me.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Cameron decided that I must pursue the most aggressive avenue for beating this disease.   I immediately traveled to Boston where I met with the world’s best mesothelioma specialists.  My treatment involved a drastic surgical procedure to remove my left lung and the lining of my heart and diaphragm.  My recovery included 18 days in the hospital, two weeks in an outpatient facility, and two months at my parents’ house in South Dakota. My parents, by the way, had been providing care for Lily during this time.  When I was finally strong enough to return home to Minnesota, I started immediately on chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Like all mothers, I had to make difficult choices to provide the best for my child. My situation required that I sacrifice being with Lily during her 6th month of life.  I cannot imagine anything harder!  But knowing that my sweet baby girl needed me to be healthy again gave me the courage to face my illness with determination.

When I look back at that time in my life, it occurs to me how very lucky I am. Ninety-five percent of all patients diagnosed with mesothelioma die from this form of cancer. I am convinced that it was because I was a mother that I had the strength to keep fighting for my life.  Knowing how much my baby needed me kept me going each day.  And so Lily is quite justified when she tells others, “I saved my mommy’s life.” I honestly believe that without her, the outcome of my illness could have been quite different.


Honestly, I cried reading this. 

I can't imagine being Heather and being put in that situation. Gracie is my everything, as her Lily is to her. I would have the same reaction, my biggest worry would be to be there for Gracie. Heather pushed on and fought for her life and to remain in her child's' life. This is one tough momma. 

Heather is now SEVEN YEARS cancer FREE.  She now wants to get the word about about this disease. Because she's SO lucky. Not many know about Mesothelioma, but it kills 95% of the people it touches. But what is even more sad? It's 100% preventable. 

Asbestos isn't a joke, and it's not some cheesy commercial on TV. It's something that should be taken very seriously.

Make sure to have your house checked and take the proper precautions to ensure that you and your family are as safe as can be. 

We are having our house checked next week.

To read more about Mesothelioma AND more on Heather and her journey: Go HERE


  1. This made me cry, too. Thank you so much for sharing. I went to read more about Mesothelioma & kind of found myself being like, "This is not English" because my vocabulary isn't spectacular. So I'm not sure how it's 100% preventable. Maybe you can email me & tell me about it?

    This mama is a fighter. I look up to her very much! Cancer is very prevalent in my husbands family. It's so scary. He lost his brother to testicular cancer & his mother nearly lost her life fighting lymphoma for over a year. The chemotherapy nearly killed her & she hasn't been the same since. It's very scary to think about. I always have to keep the Lord's plan in my mind at all times. We're all here for a purpose.

    Thanks for sharing, Tanika! You're the best.

  2. Wow, what an amazing story, and yours too! I had no idea you had cancer and part of your thyroid removed. It's amazing what love can push us to do.

  3. Cancer is horrid :( I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Glad to hear you are better though, and this was a touching story.


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