How Being a Caregiver Brought Out My Strengths | The BridgeMaker

How Being a Caregiver Brought Out My Strengths

By on Jun 06, 2013

Being a Caregiver

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. – Aristotle Onassis

In November of 2005, my wife Heather and I were excitedly preparing to share the holiday season with our precious daughter, Lily.

Lily was just three months old and it seemed like we had everything. Our bliss was interrupted when Heather could not shake fatigue and symptoms of illness. When we took her to the doctor, we soon found out that she had pleural malignant mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly form of cancer.

This news rocked our world and left both of us frightened and stunned.

Taking No Chances

I recall sitting across the desk from our primary care physician as he explained the disease to us. A form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, mesothelioma was a serious disease and we quickly started to realize how important it was that we get Heather the care she needed.

After hearing our medical treatment options, we chose to take Heather to see a renowned mesothelioma doctor in Boston who had years of experience in treating this particular cancer.

While our other treatment options were much closer to home, I knew I was not going to take any chance with Heather’s life, and I wanted to make sure she had every chance for survival possible.

The Best Advice I Can Offer

Throughout the next few months, we quickly learned that our normal routine would not be a part of our lives any longer. Our lives seemed to quicken to a hectic pace and I tried as hard as I could to take care of my work obligations while also taking on the role of Heather’s primary caregiver.

Being a caregiver is not something I ever thought I would be; but looking back now, it brought out strength in me that I never knew I had.

However, it took some time for me to adjust to the chaotic schedule that we now faced with getting Heather back and forth to the hospital while still trying to work and take care of Lily.

There were a few times where I had a near melt-down just from sheer exhaustion and concern for my wife. Without the amazing friends and family members we have, I cannot imagine how we would have survived.

If I can offer any type of solid advice to anyone who suddenly finds himself in a caregiver position for a loved one, it would be to accept any offers of help.

We were so blessed to have caring people in our community provide babysitting services, bring us meals, give us small financial assistance and simply be there to help with daily tasks. Because of these wonderful people, we were able to make it through the most difficult time in our lives.

Never Give Up Hope

If you do become a caregiver, you most likely will find it the most difficult and the most rewarding job of your life. There will be bad days, yes, but always remember that these feelings of fear and anger will fade with time.

Remaining strong and relying on solid people to give you support when it is needed can help to make being a caregiver a successful effort. Above all else, never give up hope for a better future.

After countless radiation and chemo treatments and surgery, Heather finally was able to beat mesothelioma, and our lives have now gone back to a happier routine. During my caregiver experience, I learned how to use my weaknesses by turning them into strengths. This gave me motivation to go back to school where I studied Information Technology two years later.

I went back to school while working full-time and taking care of my family. I also started to realize how precious each day is and the importance of spending as much time as possible with loved ones to make every day count.

In hindsight, our experience pulled us together and made us stronger as a family; and I was able to take on more challenges in the future.

When I graduated from college, I was honored to give the graduation speech. Having learned how to deal with stress, how to manage time and how to prioritize really equipped me to be determined to succeed at anything I take on.

I’m looking forward to a future with my wife and with Lily. I encourage any caregiver of a loved one to learn quickly how to prioritize and to remember to accept help.

These can be the very things that see you through your ordeal.

Heather Von St James | A Mesothelioma Cancer Survivor Story

(Reading by email? Click through to the site to watch this inspiring video.)

Cameron Von St. James is a contributing writer to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog. He and his wife Heather, a mesothelioma cancer survivor, work to spread hope and bring awareness to all those currently fighting cancer today.

  • A beautifully told story of hope and inspiration. Thank you.

  • Wow! Terrific story and terrific resource, Cameron – thanks!

  • Faith and hope are such powerful forces and I was so happy to see that Heather is doing so brilliantly. Thank you for sharing your uplifting and encouraging story.


  • Cameron and Alex – it is like a sign from the universe! My next post, which I am publishing this afternoon is about a similar topic! I felt so anxious as I read through the post and am so glad to hear Heather is doing well! Loved it.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

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