Posted by: Mary Crocco | January 25, 2013

Life Lessons After Caring For Someone with Cancer

“Hello, readers of “Living with CML!”  My name is Cameron Von St. James, and our mutual friend Mary has been kind enough to allow me to share some of my family’s cancer story with all of you.  As you’ll read in a moment, my wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly cancer several years ago.  Since then, we’ve blogged about our experiences in the attempt to help others going through the same struggle.  I came across Mary’s blog while searching through a variety of cancer blogs, and felt that our stories reflected one another in many ways.  I thought that her blog would be a perfect venue to share more of my story with people who might take something away from it.  Mary kindly allowed this, and I couldn’t be more honored to be able to contribute to her blog! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!  If you’d like to read more about my wife and and I, you can visit our blog at

After celebrating my daughter’s birth with my wife, Heather, and looking forward to many more years we’d have of birthday parties and memories to make, we were hit with the unimaginable when my wife was diagnosed with cancer on November 21, 2005. After hearing the words, we went into shock as we were asked by the doctor to make the first of many difficult decisions regarding her care. Although my wife was literally speechless, I had to take control of the situation and agreed to seek help from a doctor in Boston who specialized in treating mesothelioma, the rare and deadly cancer that had its sights set on my wife.

It’s fair to say that caring for my wife during her treatment took over our lives. It was a complete shock to transition from being full-time working parents to having cancer on our minds every minute of the day. I could only work-part time to have the time needed to take my wife to appointments, make travel arrangements, and be her support, all while caring for our daughter; it seemed there was no end in sight. I had moments when I would break down crying on our kitchen floor, fearing I’d end up a widowed, homeless father with not much of a future. However, even in these weak moments, I made sure to never let my wife see my fears.  She needed me to be strong, and that’s exactly what I intended to be.

If there’s anything I learned from caring for my family during my wife’s mesothelioma surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, it was to get help when it was offered. Whether it was being given financial assistance from a relative or emotional support from a friend, it was one less thing I had to worry about. I learned to give myself bad days when I needed them, and to live each day with hope. It was vital that I use every tool and resource I was given if I wanted to make it through the difficult time. This experience taught me that time is precious, and allows me to look back at a stressful time with new life experiences and be thankful for a wife who survived cancer.  Heather defied the odds and beat mesothelioma, and is happy and healthy to this day.


Several years after the most difficult season of our lives, I found myself on a stage giving a speech about my wife’s cancer as I was graduating with high honors after studying Information Technology. I was telling the audience about one of the most difficult ordeals of my life, and how it taught me life lessons about using my stubbornness to an advantage and finding strength in believing in myself.  I told them that each of us can accomplish unbelievable things, as long as we never give up hope and never stop fighting.  Heather and Lily cheered me on from the audience, and that was the greatest reward of all.


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