Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Celebrate miracles on Lung Leavin' Day

With hope, the odds don't matter.
Heather's Family

In November 2005, Heather Von St. James was 36 years old and had given birth to her daughter Lily three months before. And she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, "a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body's internal organs, known as the mesothelium." It's usually caused by exposure to asbestos and inhalation of asbestos particles. (Heather's dad used to work in construction and would come home in a jacket covered in asbestos.) This type of cancer is often diagnosed in its late stages, and most patients have survival rates of just a year or two. In Heather's case, she was given 15 months to's rare to get this form of cancer at such a young age. On the day Heather had her lung removed, her sister coined the surgery "Lung Leavin' Day." They've been celebrating this day every year on February 2. On Lung Leavin' Day, they write their prayers on a plate and then smash it with dramatic effect.

Here's the miracle: Eight years later, Heather is still alive and has beaten the cancer. She and her husband Cameron have created a beautiful website to raise awareness of this disease and to give others hope. I received an email from Cameron, asking me to write about the site on my blog, and I thought it was a perfect fit. As I discovered on my own after having an extremely early preemie, hope is way more important than the odds.

You can join them in Lung Leavin' Day by writing your own fears on a plate and smashing it on the dynamic website. I've had several friends and family members battle cancer in recent years, including a friend and coworker who died almost a year ago from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, so I love these stories of cancer survival.

I found it highly satisfying to write a few of my own fears on these plates and do some smashing! I encourage you to give it a try. Scroll to the bottom of the site to smash your own fears. And pass it on to spread the word!
Smash your own plate in the fire
Listen to Heather tell her story here:

Here's hoping you live a long life, Heather! Happy Lung Leavin' Day!

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