Everyone has a story to tell. I had no doubt about that before I Belong to No One was published, and in the six months it has been out there in the big wide world, that belief is re-enforced every week. Often times it will the most random sentence which sparks a memory in another person, and I love hearing their anecdotes that bubble up from that. I wish I had several more lifetimes to live, so I could record everyone’s story. No one gets through life unscathed, or without a remarkable experience, and many have beaten the odds stacked against them – gone on to triumph over adversity and move forward with a message of hope for the future.
One such person is Heather Von St. James. Heather stumbled across my posts on family and reached out to share her story with me. Heather was a young woman with a three month old daughter when doctors dropped the bombshell that she had mesothelioma and would struggle to survive two years. Many Australians are familiar with this aggressive cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos, as it was such a common building material here, particularly in the post-war boom. How did Heather, a young American woman contract it? Her father worked in construction, and as a young girl she just loved wearing his coat around the yard when he got home.
Heather was diagnosed in 2005. Her cancer experience came with a range of emotions, from elation to sorrow, but she found the most important thing was not to give up hope. That belief has paid off. Heather has just celebrated her 10 year cancer free anniversary. Her blog documents her experience, with each “part” representing a theme that helped her get to where she is today.
I am sharing it here, as I feel many of my followers will be very interested in part 5, which is about Motherhood and Family, and part 7, which is about faith. Each section starts with a photo and quote, click on the down arrow to read the text.
In reading Heather’s story, I found it was my turn to be reminded of things forgotten, and the next thing I was sharing my anecdote with her:
Back in the early eighties, I worked for a company whose slogan was “the name behind the names“. They owned dozens of companies across a dazzlingly eclectic range of operations, including – believe it or not, television production – but the core business activities were those connected with housing and construction. I didn’t work in the main company – the one that made fibro cement – but all employees were subject to lung testing, regardless of only being an office worker such as myself. A caravan of medical equipment and health professionals came twice, if I remember correctly. I was told my lung capacity was below par, but never received a diagnosis or any results, so didn’t follow through. Took another twenty years before a switched-on GP discovered I had a problem leftover from having measles as a child. Nothing to do with asbestos, but if “whoever” had been prepared to be upfront with the test results, I would have saved myself years of struggling to treat a bronchitis I didn’t have.
So, I was also interested to read part 6, which is about finding justice for those who are affected.
In her correspondence with me, Heather’s message was all about triumphing over adversity. She made it clear that her goal is to inspire and prove that with hope, the odds don’t matter! And that is where our two stories truly intersect.
2015 was an amazing year for me, one of the best I can recall in many years. Truly a year of transformation and re-invention of self. Just the same as it has been for many others, however, my life wasn’t always that good. At the end of my memoir, I muse on why my first twenty years was such a grab bag of unfortunate experiences, and I come to the conclusion that there “is a purpose, and the purpose is to bring a message of hope. I am a survivor, and I am a storyteller.”
You can see that Heather and I are mimicking the same message. Perhaps this post will inspire you to write about your own story, your own experience of despair and triumph, and what role hope and inspiration played in overcoming the odds. It’s so easy to focus on what is dismal in this world. I’ve been guilty of that many times myself.
So for my first post of 2016, I have deliberately chosen to be serious for a moment, to pause and reflect, and to share this Message of Hope and Inspiration.
Happy New Year to all!