Juggling all the aspects of my life with some baking, writing and good old fashioned ranting thrown in

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Getting by with a little help from my friends

I am the kind of person who does not usually ask for help. I much prefer to struggle on alone. Some might say its a good thing to be self-reliant. Others might say I'm stubborn and don't wish to appear vulnerable. I think its a bit of both.

 Yesterday, a little while after waking, I began to feel uncomfortably dizzy. I sat and drank some water, thinking that I was perhaps still a bit tired and maybe dehydrated. But the feeling became worse and worse. I realised that it was vertigo, something I suffered with a few years ago and I have dreaded returning ever since. Apparently often caused by some kind of imbalance in the inner ear, vertigo causes severe dizziness and imbalance.

 My Little Monster behaved beautifully, bringing me a blanket when I felt shivery and constantly reminding me to sip my water, probably something she has copied from how I treat her when she's poorly. But as time went on, and I felt no better, I realised that looking after her was going to be too difficult. The Other Half was stuck at work and could only help by keeping in touch to make sure that I hadn't passed out. My poor little girl was stuck watching TV and playing by herself.

 So I decided, against my usual nature, to ask for help. I texted a friend. She replied and, despite being busy and needing to reorganise her day in order to do so, she came to look after me. She brought her own little girl for my Little Monster to play with. She brought me jelly and a chocolate bar for when I felt better. It was strange to be looked after as its the role I usually fill. Normally when I get ill, I try my very best to ignore it and get on. But this wasn't something I could struggle through with on my own. I remember learning about the "Sick Role" in a previous Open University course. It involves taking on the responsibility of trying to get better, in exchange for certain privileges such as special food (jelly) to eat and being allowed to rest rather than carry out normal tasks such as work or chores. It isn't something I do very well with.

 It just goes to show the importance of having the support of good friends when you really need it. Without my friend, I would have been stuck on the sofa and my little girl would have been lonely and bored all day long.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pivotal Moments - Telling Someone

I originally wrote this post for the Britmums Blogging Prompt "Pivotal Moments". Unfortunately, I waited too long to upload and the linky is now closed.

Looking back, I think one of the most pivotal moments in my life was my decision to tell someone a long guarded secret about myself. It isn't something I have spoken about on my blog before, but I suffered sexual abuse as a child.

I had been seeing my boyfriend for a little while when we started hitting a problem. We both wanted to sleep together but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Every time we got close, I would stop completely, sometimes bursting into tears. He said we could wait but I was scared it could jeopardize our relationship, which was otherwise great. But it didn't take long for him to work out that something was very wrong. 

I nearly ended the whole thing there and then. But I was otherwise so happy with him that I decided to finally tell someone what had happened to me. I could barely get the words out but I think, to an extent, he knew what I was going to say. He was brilliant; very sympathetic and understanding. I had always thought that if I told a boyfriend what had happened to me, he would run a mile. I admit, it is a lot to deal with and not everyone would able to handle it. 

Our relationship was by no means easy. There were probably more downs than ups for quite a while. But two years later, my boyfriend proposed to me. Now he's my Other Half and we have our Little Monster. I never thought I could have a normal adult relationship, thinking that I would never get over the things that had happened during my childhood. But, for the most part, I have managed to put it behind me. I have never been happier than I am now, although I do still struggle with some PTSD related problems. If I had never told anyone, I probably would never have formed a relationship with anyone, or else I would have forced myself into one and been even more miserable than I already was. I certainly wouldn't have my Little Monster, something completely unimaginable now. I have everything I could have wished for, perhaps minus a mansion and a big bag of cash! Telling someone was the best decision I have ever made and one of the most pivotal moments of my life. 

I urge anyone who has suffered abuse that if you find someone you can trust enough, tell them about it. Its a huge relief and the first step on a path to being much happier. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

London 2012 has officially begun!

It has been a long time coming but the Olympics are finally here. I'm not actually a big sports enthusiast but I can see the importance of this event; so many countries coming together to compete and celebrate their sporting achievements. Its a beautiful idea. 

The opening ceremony was much talked about and I was looking forward to watching. It certainly did not disappoint. The ideas were creative and astoundingly well executed. A rendition of Jerusalem never fails to get me feeling patriotic and seeing choirs of children around the country singing their own national songs was good too; I felt it gave a sense of inclusion. Watching the set of rural British countryside become industrialised was incredible; fantastic set pieces and use of the space. The medley of British music across the decades, accompanied by some brilliant dancing was fun to watch and I liked the little love story woven in. Little moments of humour were added with the arrival of the Queen and James Bond jumping out of a helicopter and Rowan Atkinson giving a Bean-esque performance during Chariots of Fire. Overall, I think it really represented Britain very well. Our achievements, our music, our history and our culture. Well done Danny Boyle! 

The parade of athletes was interesting to see. Countries that usually are in the news due to conflicts and friction with others were represented by smiling athletes, come to compete and represent their home country. Children carrying copper leaves accompanied them. No explanation for this was given but I suspected it must have something to do with lighting the Olympic flame, given that they seemed to be dressed as ancient Greeks. The idea for the Olympic cauldron was extraordinary when it eventually came together. Flaming copper petals coming together to form a gigantic flame in the centre of the stadium. Utterly beautiful and a brilliant symbol of the games themselves. 

I must admit, towards the end I did start to doze off and I believe I may have missed a few bits. Fortunately, we have it recorded and I'll be watching it later today with the Other Half, who was at a work function last night. I did catch the glorious firework display and performance by Sir Paul McCartney. Hey Jude was the perfect song to end the ceremony. People of all languages can join in with the "Na na na"s at the end, ultimately uniting everyone in the stadium, along with all of us singing along at home too. 

It was a truly amazing show. A big congratulations to everyone involved, from the organisers to the volunteers and performers. You were all amazing! 

Friday, 27 July 2012

They grow up so fast...

Its common for parents to, amongst all of the pride and joy, to feel a little sad as they watch their children grow up. But nowadays, it seems there's a huge issue with children growing up too fast. I remember watching a television programme, I think on Channel 4, about young girls being introduced to mature ideas like sex at a very young age through fashion and the media. I remember making a mental note that this might be something I need to keep an eye on as my own little girl gets older. I don't want her to be introduced to adult ideas of how to look attractive when she should be concentrating on learning and having lots of childish fun. 

While it is an issue that I was concerned about, I didn't expect it to become relevant for us for a good few years yet. So I was rather shocked when a shop assistant in our local supermarket commented to my two year old that she looked "sexy" in her new sunglasses. At first, I was a bit disturbed but just left the shop quickly, thinking that I would talk to my Other Half about this later, to see what he thought about it. As I thought more about it, the more disgusted I was and when I later told the Other Half, he was outraged and immediately called the supermarket (he's much better at making complaints than I am, being more verbose and more able to make a clear argument). I am not going to name and shame them because the supermarket instantly apologised and seem to be taking it seriously. When asked to give a description of the member of staff in question, I also pointed out that the staff in this store are usually polite and appropriately talkative with my daughter. 

This incident will not affect my Little Monster, I am sure. She doesn't seem to remember it at all, or at least hasn't mentioned it. I doubt she has any concept whatsoever what the word "sexy" means. But the fact that a grown up thought it appropriate to use that word in reference to a toddler is disturbing. I do not believe that this woman was a paedophile or seriously meant that she found my daughter sexually appealing. If I had, I probably would have made a formal complaint at the time. From other experiences of hearing this word thrown about, occasionally in reference to someone far too young for it to be appropriate, I honestly don't think some people consider what they're actually saying and what affect it could have on a child. 

Children are extremely impressionable. Now, I'm not saying we should wrap our children in cotton wool. If she asks me where babies come from, I will be fairly honest, probably emphasising the biology of the process. But I do not want her to mature too early. Some of the clothes I see little girls wearing do disgust me. I recall seeing a little girl, perhaps aged about seven, with "In your dreams" written across her t-shirt and wondering why on earth a parent would let their daughter wear that. A girl of that age might perhaps know what sex is through asking questions but should she really have a concept of sexual desire? I think not. Frankly, I would be far more upset if my daughter described herself as "sexy" during her childhood than if she uttered a swear word. Perhaps others will disagree with me. Perhaps others will think me old fashioned, that I am behind the times and need to accept that society is changing. But what exactly is it changing into? The kind of place where a child should be thinking about looking sexy? I sincerely hope not. 

I will end this post on this point. Women have fought to be seen as equals, to be able to work and have careers, to have all the same rights as men. But now females seem to be taught from a very young age that looking attractive is supremely important. Is this not a gigantic step backwards? Why are we not teaching our children that what's on the inside is far more important? Of course I tell my little girl that she looks pretty in a new dress. But I praise her far more when she learns to recognise a new letter or counts from one to ten without my help. Those are the things to be proud of, surely. 

I would welcome the views of others on this subject so please comment with your opinion on this issue.  

Monday, 23 July 2012

Surviving the Summer Holidays with a Toddler

I am thrilled that the sunshine has arrived. Looking out of my window at the blue sky does make me smile. But already, I'm dreading the idea that for the next six weeks, my usual mums group is closed up for the holidays. Its a reminder of how much I rely on that one group to provide me with two hours of adult socialisation while my Little Monster's in the crèche. There aren't many activities for under-5s on at all actually and play centres are due to be packed with older children. So here is my guide to surviving the summer holidays with a toddler...

1. Keep Cool. Tantrums are far more likely to strike when your toddler is getting too hot. My daughter loves an afternoon shower to cool off. She splashes about it in the water and the whole thing becomes a game of me chasing her around the bathtub with the shower hose.

2. Keep a good supply of arty crafty stuff. On a really hot day, leaving the house may not be the best idea with your toddler. Plus, daily trips to the local park can become a little boring for all concerned. If there are days where you have nothing to do, get out some paper and paints/stickers/glue and various scraps of wrapping paper and tissue paper. Baking is another great indoor activity.

3. Make a play-date. All those mums I miss seeing during the holidays do actually exist outside of the group. Now could be the perfect time to turn a playgroup acquaintance into a friend. Invite someone who has a child of a similar age to yours over for lunch. Or arrange a big meet up of all your usual group at the park or even the beach if you're fortunate enough to have one nearby.

4. Don't feel guilty about having the occasional lazy day. At least once a week, we spend the day indoors. We watch DVDs, read books and play games. Its actually really nice to have a day of simply enjoying each other's company. There's no need to arrange activities for every day and if you try to, you'll probably run out of ideas very quickly.

5. Have a picnic. My daughter gets ridiculously excited at the prospect of a picnic. It must be the combination of yummy food, a break from the usual routine and being outdoors. You needn't go far - if you're lucky enough to have a garden then use it. Unfortunately, I live in a first floor flat but the park isn't far away.

6. Keep an eye out for any activities that are on. As I said, there don't seem to be many activities for under-5s on during the summer holidays. So it would be a real shame to miss them! Keep up-to-date using local authority websites or your local paper. If you search the internet, you might find a website giving listings of events in your local area.

7. Remember the sun cream and a hat! I know we hear it time and time again but make sure you have a good supply of sun cream and a few hats for your toddler. I'm the kind of person who looks out the window and rejoices at the gorgeous weather, only to realise that I have no sun cream and my Little Monster's sun hat has completely disappeared. Plus, my daughter has been known to lose her hat on days out so I always try to remember to carry a spare.

Most importantly, have fun! I hope everyone has a great summer!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Another rant against my fellow women

I know we're supposed to be all sisterly and never say a word against a fellow lady. But some women drive me insane with some of the things they do. So here's a list of ridiculous things that other women do. As a disclaimer, I am NOT saying that all women do these things. In fact, most of the women I know do not do these things. Its only the minority but they're making the rest of us look bad. 

1. Wearing extremely skimpy clothing then shrieking "Pervert!" at every man who glances in their direction. Firstly, men are not necessarily horrible creeps if they have a cheeky glance. Obviously, if they're openly staring then that's a different matter. Secondly, if you don't want people looking at it, cover it up! The last time I saw this happen, the girl in question was in public wearing a bra and an unbuttoned waistcoat. Clearly a very classy young lady. 

2. Vehemently claiming that they should be treated entirely equally to men in every way but then complaining when a man doesn't give up a seat on the bus for them/pull out a chair for them/hold a door open for them because they want to be treated like a "lady". You can't actually have it both ways. (Of course, exceptions should be made for pregnant ladies) 

3. Similar to No. 2 really. Women who love to spout on about feminism and doing it all for themselves then the second they need their car fixed or they need help with carrying something, they put on the "helpless little lady" act. I have actually known women who will purposefully burst into tears to dodge anything from bank charges to speeding tickets. All you are doing is reinforcing a negative stereotype and making yourself look really pathetic. 

4. The idea that its more important to spend time with one's friends than one's partner. I have chosen to spend my life with my Other Half. So surely its safe to assume that I quite like spending time with him. Plus, time alone with him could very well equal sex or at least a lovely cuddle on the sofa. Time alone with this type of "friend" will probably equal bitter whinging about how crap men are. Not a difficult choice to make really, is it? 

5. Punishing men by withholding sex. This is just stupid. Surely you are also punishing yourself since you won't get any sex either. Why do some women not wish to admit that they actually enjoy sex? It's really annoying for all concerned. 

6. The absolute worst thing I have ever heard of a woman doing. And yes, I have actually encountered women who do this. Trapping a man in a relationship by getting pregnant without consulting him. Then laughing with their friends about how much of a fool he is. This will not lead to a happy relationship, mark my words. 

The things on my list do nothing but create a negative stereotype. I've heard many a man comment on how manipulative women can be. True, they probably shouldn't make such a sweeping generalisation but you can see where they got the idea from. Also true that men do things wrong. If your partner forgets your birthday or to tell you how pretty you look in your new dress, actually tell him this. Secretly resenting him and coming up with bizarre little punishments will never ever solve any problem. It will only make him think that you've completely lost the plot. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Meet The Mummy, The Housewife, The Wife, The Best Friend and The Student

My entire blog is based around the theme of juggling the different aspects of my life. I have found that, to manage my life effectively, I actually need to be five different people. Let me introduce you to them.

No. 1 The Mummy

This is the person I become when playing with my Little Monster. I am completely without shame as I dance around my living room, sing "The Wheels on the Bus" in public and pretend to be a fierce monster who will eat up small children. My main goals are entertaining my daughter and generally having lots of very immature fun, while teaching her lots of important things like how to read.

No. 2 The Housewife

This is the person that pops up when its time to make dinner, get the laundry done or get the flat cleaned up after Mummy and The Little Monster have finished making a mess of it. I am sensible, organised and a little irritable. My goals are to have a clean and tidy flat and a healthy yet tasty meal on the table that has been cooked entirely from scratch. Unfortunately, I don't appear as often as I perhaps should.

No. 3 The Wife

This person has actually existed since I was seventeen but back then was called The Girlfriend, only three years ago becoming The Wife. I am flirtatious, confident and get up to things that would cause The Mummy to blush and The Housewife to tut and shake her head in disapproval (though probably just to cover her jealousy). Many people seem to believe that I disappeared long ago when the Little Monster was born but actually I just don't come out as often as I used to. I usually appear after about 9pm and perhaps during nap time, plus the occasional naughty text message conversation with the Other Half during the day. But it's not all about the sex, I'm also the one that likes a cuddle on the sofa in the evening.

No. 4 The Best Friend

I have known the Other Half for a very long time. For a few years, before The Girlfriend came along, we were just friends. The Best Friend is someone I still become for a little while each day, usually more at weekends. Me and the Other Half play computer and board games, watch comedy films and generally have a good laugh. I am also there for the Other Half when he needs to talk about something or asks for advice that doesn't involve the flat or our daughter.

No. 5  The Student

Though I am called The Student, I am also the part that blogs and writes and reads novels. I am academic, imaginative and, it could be said, a bit selfish. Unlike the other four, I am focussed entirely on myself and my own development and goals. Some days, I am around for hours. Sometimes I am bubbling beneath the surface, desperate to come out and spend some time sitting at the laptop or curled up on the sofa with a good book. Sometimes I am suppressed for days at a time, such as if the Little Monster is ill and needs looking after.

During the course of a day, I have to switch between these personalities at a moment's notice. If The Wife is enjoying some very adult time with the Other Half but there's a sudden noise over the baby monitor, The Mummy needs to appear pretty quickly. They can be a little interchangeable. A combination of The Mummy and The Housewife, for example, gives the rather delightful result of doing the hoovering while dancing to the Queen classic, "I want to break free" (You'll only know why this is delightful if you have seen the video. If you haven't watched it, go away and do so immediately, assuming the cave you're living in has sufficient internet for youtube).

I suppose all parents share this need for switching quickly between roles. The Other Half has the daily task of switching from Daddy mode to Work mode, which must be difficult. I think the typical problem for many couples comes when its time to conjure up their sexual alter-egos when they're completely knackered from being Mummy and Daddy all day long. The key to happiness seems to be getting the balance of each role just right. If anyone figures out how to do that, please let me know.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Few of my Favourite Things

When I'm having a bad day or just feeling a bit down, there are a few things that will usually cheer me up. 

1. If I'm woken up early or I really don't feel like getting out of bed, a breakfast of dippy egg and toast really cheers me up. It has been my favourite breakfast since I can remember. 

2. Watching some mindless television. Some examples are Friends, Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond. Simple comedy, yes, but they always make me laugh. 

3. If mindless television fails, a feel-good film will do the trick. The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, You've Got Mail, Notting Hill, The Holiday...oh the list could go on. Basically anything funny yet tear-jerking with a happy ending. 

4. A nice big tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. As a direct result of Blockbusters having a 2 for 1 deal on  this product, I ballooned to just over 12st at the age of fourteen. These days, I try to limit myself to a third of a tub at a time. This doesn't always work. 

5. Picnics. Of course, this does rely on the weather. Despite the near constant rain recently, I did manage to take the Little Monster for a picnic in the park last week. It was lovely. 

6. Some good music to sing along to. If we're having a boring day, I pop on some lively music and dance around the living room with my Little Monster. I do close the blinds these days, after I caught the lady across the street staring at us...

7. Baking, especially if the result is something warm and comforting, like a banana loaf. 

8. Craft activities. Whether its painting, scrap-booking or sewing, there's something very relaxing about craft. Plus it has the added bonus of a sense of accomplishment at the end. Or a good laugh at how ridiculous the finished result looks. 

9. When my Little Monster runs up and says "I love you" for no reason at all. Always makes me grin. 

10. A cuddle from the Other Half. If I've had a hard day, cuddling up on the sofa under a blanket always makes it better. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My pretty little Lumix

Last night, me and the Other Half went camera shopping. I'm very glad I had done some research and looked at reviews and detailed specifications before actually going to buy it. The staff had very little knowledge about the cameras or their features. It took them about ten minutes to actually find the camera once we had made our selection!

We chose the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1, which I already described a bit on my previous post so I shan't bore you with a repeat of the technical specifications. Having only seen pictures beforehand, I was pleased to find it just as sleek and pretty looking in reality. Its a perfect size for my purposes; comfortable to hold yet small enough to fit nicely in my bag or pocket.

I apologise for the terrible quality of this photo. It was taken with my camera phone, which is rubbish. Hopefully it still manages to convey the loveliness of new camera though. But enough of how pretty it is, I should really note how great the pictures it can take are too!

Below is a little test of the picture quality.

Taken by the Samsung Galaxy Ace phone's camera
Taken by the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

I know extremely little about photography so my review of this test will be very basic. I think the differences are pretty obvious. The colours look washed out and really dull on the camera phone picture. Everything's much crisper and more vibrant on the SZ1 picture. I think it could probably do a lot better actually but I haven't found my way around all of the features yet, of which there are many. My last digital camera just had landscape, macro or normal. The SZ1 also has baby mode, through glass mode (for nosey neighbours, one assumes), panoramic mode and many more. I've had a very short test of the HD video capture with really good results. We were keen to get a camera that also took good videos as we like creating videos to send to the Other Half's family, since they live far away. Its a nice way to update them on how we're all doing. Or rather on how the Little Monster is doing! The vast majority of photographs taken in this house are of her. As soon as she spots a camera, she insists on having her photo taken, such a little poser! 

All in all, I'm thrilled with my new camera. Hopefully, it should mean a more exciting blog too! 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Choosing a compact digital camera for family snaps

As a family, we're quite big fans of photography.

I vaguely remember being given disposable cameras for childhood holidays and really enjoying the whole process of taking the photos then getting them developed and creating a photo album for them. For my eighteenth birthday, I was given my first digital camera. At the time, I was thrilled with it. It was silver and compact and took some lovely photographs. I used it during my first trip with the Other Half, to Paris just after we got engaged. That camera lasted nearly two years but then would often switch off of its own accord. In the end, I reluctantly binned it. 

My next camera was actually a phone; the Song Ericsson Satio with an impressive in-built 12.1 megapixel camera. It took many of the Little Monster's baby photos and the picture quality was surprisingly brilliant for something taken on a mobile phone. But when my phone contract ran out, I decided to upgrade but sacrificed the good camera for other features. As it happens, that phone has turned out to be utter rubbish and I look forward to sending it off to Mazuma the second I can upgrade to something better, possibly an iPhone. I already use my Other Half's old iTouch, why not go the whole hog and get the phone too? Everyone else seems to have one and they all delight in showing how much better it is than my phone. I am Apple green with envy. 

The other half has a big SLR camera that he uses to take mostly creative photographs, often wandering outdoors in the small hours of the morning to catch some shots of the sunrise. The Little Monster even has a camera of her own, a massive thing with big rubbery grips on the side. She's just starting to get the hang of it. The picture quality is fairly poor but for her purposes, its good enough. 

I miss having a camera now. My current phone, the Samsung Galaxy Ace (AKA piece of utter rubbish I mentioned before) has a camera on it but its only 5 megapixel and when I have tried printing photographs taken on it, they look really, really awful. With it being summer (although you wouldn't know it at the moment) and the holiday coming up, it would be nice to have a proper camera to take photographs with. The Other Half can take fantastic photographs with the SLR but its rather bulky and, frankly, I'm always a little nervous of dropping it. Not really suitable to take on a family holiday with a two year old! So, after saving up some money, we're now looking to buy a nice compact digital camera. 

There are a few options. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35 was the first we looked at. Although not shown in the link, it is available in a lovely purple colour. I know, the colour shouldn't be important but I do like purple. Is it a teensy bit obvious from my blog's design? On the more technical side, it's 16.1 megapixels, has an 8x optical zoom and takes high definition videos. Plus it's small and slim and would easily fit in my pocket or handbag. All very good for taking family snaps. Unfortunately, some of the reviews I have looked at claim that it has a "cheap feel" due to being mostly made of plastic. 

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is the current favourite and probably the one we'll get. Much like the FS35, its 16.1 megapixel and takes HD video but has a far superior 10x optical zoom. Plus, according to reviews, it has a much more sturdy feel to it, though still nice and small for carrying around on family days out. 

There are a couple of others on our short list. The first is the Fujifilm JZ250. Its a bit cheaper than our other choices but, since we've got money put aside specifically for the purpose, this isn't too much of a concern for us. Its 16 megapixel, which I doubt is a noticeable amount compared to the previous two and has an 8x optical zoom, so better than the FS35 but not as good as the SZ1. 

The last one my list is the Samsung ST88. I will admit, this has a lot to do with style. Again, it's purple plus its metal and very sleek looking. There's a nice big LCD screen on the back too. As for the technical stuff, its about the same as the FS35, with 16.1 megapixels and a 5x optical zoom. I doubt we'll actually get this one, it would be shallow to buy a camera merely because its so very very pretty, wouldn't it? 

On Tuesday evening, I will be meeting the Other Half in town after he has finished work so that we can have a little look and feel of the cameras, since one of the major things people have mentioned is the "feel" of the FS35 and the SZ1, the former being a negative and the latter being a positive. Hopefully, this little outing will end with us bringing home our new camera so expect a picture or two of it and hopefully some test pictures taken with it! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Guest Post: "The Importance of Having a Village When Dealing with Mesothelioma"

I have never hosted a guest post before but when I heard Heather's story of her fight against cancer, I was honoured to have the opportunity to help her share her story and raise awareness of the rare illness she suffered with: Mesothelioma. I found this post deeply inspiring and I hope my readers do too!

The Importance of Having a Village When Dealing with Mesothelioma

A lot of people say “it takes a village to raise a child,” but I have come to find out how true that saying can be recently. I gave birth to my daughter, Lily, on August 4, 2005, through an emergency C-section. As soon as my daughter was born, I first understood the meaning of a “village” when my and my husband’s family and friends came to see Lily and wish us the best. Everything seemed fine at the time, but I would soon come to rely on my “village” after I found out I had cancer.

A month after I returned to work, I started to feel weak and breathless all the time, but I thought it was due to being a new mom. Many moms feel extremely tired after having a baby. However, I had a strong feeling that my tiredness wasn’t due to taking care of my newborn so I went to the doctor to get tested. I was distressed when I found out about my condition.

The doctor gave me diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005, only 3 ½ months after I brought Lily into the world. My condition is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and can be caused by exposure to asbestos. I came to find out that when I was a child, I had been exposed to asbestos. My symptoms were manifesting 30 years later, when I had just become a mother.

When I was diagnosed, I thought about the effect that my condition would have on my baby and husband. I was told I had fifteen months to live if we did nothing. I decided I would do whatever it took to survive. My husband and I flew to Boston so that on February 2nd 2006, I could undergo an extrapleural pneumenectomy from one of the top mesothelioma doctors in the country. During the procedure, the doctor removed my left lung and all of the surrounding tissue, replacing it with Gore-Tex. I spent another 18  days recovering from the surgery in the hospital, and then another 2 months recovering at home before I underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Having a “village” of different people from different times in our lives to provide love, support, and prayers helped my husband and I tremendously.  It was funny how people that I didn’t think would step up did, and some people who I thought we could depend upon weren’t there for my family. My parents, who both worked full time, raised Lily while I was going through cancer treatment in Boston. A “village” of people, including individuals I babysat when I was younger and people from my family’s church helped them to take care of Lily or offered their support and love. I also found a “village” of supporters, especially people who were dealing with the same thing as my family, while I was in Boston.

My parents emailed me pictures of Lily regularly and my husband printed them out on a community printer. I would show the nurses the grainy black and white photos of Lily, who started to eat solid foods and scoot and roll around when I was in the hospital. It took a great effort on my part not to cry, but I just remembered that I was going through treatment for Lily. I knew she was in great hands with my parents, but being away from her was still tough.

What I went through made me realize the importance of embracing life. Although life is never easy, it is important for us to live it as best as we can and embrace the good that comes along with the bad. Having cancer really made me realize that. As one of my favorite quotes says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Pictures of Heather with her daughter, Lily

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.