Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throw Your Fears Into The Fire!

This may easily be one of the longest blog posts I have written to date. Bear with me though and read through to the end. I think it will be well worth your time.

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Everyone has fears that they deal with. Perhaps yours is health or finance related or you fear never being able to fix something you regret. Do you ever wish you could just leave it behind and move forward?

We all go through different seasons in our lives - it's part of 'the journey'. I've had more seasons than would fit in a calendar year. My parents divorced many years ago leaving in the aftermath a young girl of 12 full of questions, uncertainties, insecurities, and yes ... even fears. Fears of what would happen to me, how would I grow up, and what would my future look like.

As an adult (at 42) I was a wife and mother of two when I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. I went through a lot of treatment, but I was lucky. I survived and am now 8 years cancer free! That doesn't mean that I didn't have my share of fears along the way; the fear of having surgery, the fear of the chemo not working, and the inevitable fear of the cancer coming back some day. I am blessed to say that since that time many fears have been erased ... gone ... history! My fears of not seeing my daughter graduate from high school ... gone. The fear of not seeing my son graduate from two colleges ... gone. The fear of not being there on my son's beautiful wedding day ... gone.

We tackle our fears head on. Sometimes we're successful and sometimes we're not. Sometimes it's coming across inspiring real life stories that gives us the extra push we need to get over our own hurdles.

This week I learned of an amazing woman, Heather Von St. James. Nine years ago when Heather was 36 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. She had been exposed to the asbestos as a child. Heather had just given birth to her daughter, and during the most exciting time in her and her husband's lives, she was given just 15 months to live. Heather's surgery was scheduled for just 2 days prior to her daughter turning six months old. After surgery to remove the affected lung, pleura (the lining around the lung where the cancer was), the left half of her diaphragm and lining of her heart, and her sixth rib Heather began her journey towards survival. Mesothelioma is by far one of the worst cancers to have to deal with and has a latency period, sometimes up to 35 years. That's just crazy! Part of every person's journey is learning how to create something positive in the aftermath of a devastation. Whether that be an illness, the loss of a loved one, or the uncertainty of whether or not you'll have a roof over your head or a next meal to eat.

Out of Heather's real-life journey came an event called Lung Leavin' Day. This year will be the 9th Lung Leavin' Day Celebration! Heather and her husband wanted to find a way to celebrate the day her lung left. As Heather said, "One doesn't usually celebrate a surgery, but being who we are, we decided we should. The main idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during Lung Leavin' Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it -- very symbolic. But instead of wood, my husband and I came up with the idea of a plate. Plus, we figured not too many people really want to firewalk. From there the tradition was born."

The purpose of the holiday is to encourage others to face their fears. Each year they gather around a bonfire in their backyard in Minnesota with their friends and family. They write down their biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. They celebrate for those no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, they celebrate life! Heather added, "The celebration is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, it's for everyone. Each individual has a fear to overcome. We even get the kids involved! We give paper plates to the little kids and let them write things they are afraid of too, so they can throw their plates and fears into the fire. My daughter Lily has a lot of great memories from past celebrations and looks forward to it every year as well."

Heather's journey hit a chord for me. While my cancer was completely different than hers I still felt a connection. My oncologist who got me through my entire treatment and 5-year post op was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the end of my 5 years. He was my age and within months he was gone, leaving behind a wife and family. My husband and I owe my life to him and my surgeon. We can't bring him back but we can celebrate him, his dedicated work to others, and his family. We can celebrate Heather and other people willing to fight and conquer their own fears.

Please join them in taking a moment on February 2nd to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Of course, not everyone can be at a bonfire, so they've made it easy for us. They've created an interactive page that further explains the full story of their special day.

If you've never shared one of my posts before I urge this to be the one.

For more information on Mesothelioma,
it's causes and her treatment check the links below ...

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