Cancer During the Holiday Season

Guest Writer: Cameron Von St. James

I’ve always loved the holidays. In 2005, my wife and I welcomed our daughter Lily in August, which made us even more excited about the holidays than usual that year. We were so happy to celebrate with our daughter, planning the new family traditions we wanted to create and memories we knew we’d make. Unfortunately, when Lily was three and a half months old, which also happened to be three days before Thanksgiving, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. What little I knew about this rare and deadly form of cancer was enough for me to know that our future had become very uncertain.

I did not feel that I had much to be thankful for that holiday season. We did celebrate that year, but our celebration was much different than we had envisioned it, what seemed like so long ago when cancer was not a part of our lives. Instead of family stories and happy conversation, I sat at my table listening to my in-laws and my wife discuss our finances and how we would make it through the following months. We talked about the assets we had that we could liquidate, the bills we had that my in-laws could help us pay, and everything else we had in the bank and had to pay. We both worked, but with the cost of travel arrangements to Boston and the piling bills and dwindling income, we needed to have this discussion. It was not a fun conversation and I was left feeling anything but happy and thankful. I was mortified and embarrassed, and it would be years before I could look back on that day and see how mistaken I was to look at it that way.

I thought the holidays were ruined for me. This is not how I imagined spending Lily’s first holidays, and my pride blinded me to all that I should have been thankful for. It took me several years to realize that I did have a lot to be thankful for that holiday season. I had a family who was willing to put a stop to their own lives to rush to our side and help my wife and me in our time of need. They were willing to help us in so many ways, they made great sacrifices for us, and I should have been so thankful for that at the time. My pride simply got in the way of seeing things that way. This holiday season, I am taking nothing for granted. I am so thankful to have the kind, generous, caring family that I have. Most of all, I am thankful that my wife, after extensive mesothelioma treatments, is still here today. We have celebrated seven Christmases together since her diagnosis, and there will be many more to come. I hope that our story of success can be a source of hope and inspiration to all those currently fighting cancer this holiday season.


Cameron Von St. James is the Husband of Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. James and writes a moving and inspiring blog as a part of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Read More:

Heather Von St. James on Facebook:


About Kamina Kapow

I have dimples and friends

3 responses to “Cancer During the Holiday Season”

  1. Mom says :

    Thank you for posting that. It is a beautiful reminder to be thankful “in the moment” everyday.

  2. Sally says :

    Cameron’s comments bring me sharp regret that I haven’t been that kind of family to you, Kamina. So many, many times you have come to my thoughts and I have put off letting you know. My own insecurity drives me to try to come up with the perfect thing to say or do, and lacking that perfect word or act, to do or say nothing at all. I see more clearly now that my fear of not being perfect for you was incredibly self-centered and far more damaging to our relationship than if I’d come and made an ass of myself. In the end, that’s just what I did. Deep regrets and a sense of loss that I couldn’t take myself out of the equation and simply be there for you. We would have been closer to each other now if I had.

    • clumsythinker says :

      I sometimes think like this, too. There are things I say to myself when I think like this. “Not everything I think is true.” and “Oh Kamina, always the drama queen.” The second one always makes me laugh. In my head everything is an exaggerated made-for-TV-drama.

      We cool.

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