Heather Von St. James is an 11 year mesothelioma cancer survivor and now advocate. She works to spread awareness for this rare cancer, educating on the dangers of asbestos and supporting the cancer community. As a patient advocate, she connects with those affected by cancer and their families and helps to spread awareness on the needs of survivorship.
After her own experience with a rare cancer, she found that support and community were difficult to come by while navigating life after treatment. It took Heather seven years of struggling on her own, working through anxiety and isolation, before she realized her situation was not normal. The hand-wringing anxiety, fears of her cancer reoccurring, or that her daughter would get sick had taken over her days and sucked the joy from her life. With the support of her family, she sought treatment with a counselor who later diagnosed her with PTSD and helped her identify, understand and work through her triggers. Finding coping tools, along with a community of other survivors she could connect with, helped her find her way through. She now works with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and often partners with other cancer organizations, so that no one facing cancer feels they’re alone or isolated as she did. Heather strives to highlight all the needs of cancer survivors and working to eliminate the stigma of mental health needs in this community.
Cancer Survivor’s Day was June 4th and is an opportunity to recognize, celebrate and support all cancer survivors in our lives this month. From their struggles to their triumphs, this day is to honor all those who have been touched by cancer. While “survivorship” can mean something different for everyone, this community can have specific and real needs during and after treatment, both physical and mental. Through the rigors and stress of the entire experience of cancer, from diagnosis all the way through remission, cancer survivors may need support and help through anxiety, depression, trauma and any other side effects they may experience.
By highlighting all of their needs, this June for Cancer Survivor’s Day we can join Heather in supporting those who could benefit from attention, information and resources to help them cope, heal and find their way after cancer. Connect with Heather on her Twitter and Facebook to keep up with her advocacy work supporting cancer survivors and raising awareness with environmental organizations on the dangers of asbestos!