The Difficulties and Rewards of Being a Cancer Caregiver

8 01 2013

(Note from Geoff: This is an article sent to me by a father and husband named Cameron. He saw this blog and asked if I would mind posting a brief article of this experience as a caregiver to his wife during her battle with cancer. I know I haven’t written anything for this blog in awhile, and this might be the catalyst that brings me back to it. I hope you enjoy Cameron’s story.)

My wife sometimes tells me that she’s unable to comprehend what I’d gone through during the time that she struggled with cancer. I’ve only discussed it with her once, but now I hope to reveal more about the experience for the benefit of those that could learn from our story.

A few months before the diagnosis, we were blessed with our first and only baby girl, Lily. Unfortunately, our lives took a turn for the worse just three short months later. I still vividly remember that fateful day when the doctors diagnosed my wife with mesothelioma. All I could do was look into her distraught, tearful eyes and wonder how we could get through something like this.

I was completely overwhelmed and at the edge of a breakdown, but the doctor’s questions snapped me out of it for the time being. It was just one out of many times when I’d have to balance my emotional pain with helping my wife. I was filled with rage at first. I was angry at the world for putting my wife in this cruel and unfair situation. It was hard to control and oftentimes, my only outlet was profanity. Luckily, I eventually learned to get a hold on this anger and realized that my wife and daughter needed my strength. They depended on me and the last thing they needed was to see how scared I was. From that moment on, I did my very best to be nothing but a source of hope and optimism for my wife.

After my wife’s diagnosis, there were times when I was overloaded with work and new responsibilities for which I was completely unprepared. Now, all of our responsibilities rested in my hands, including the care of our daughter and pets, Heather’s care, our home, my job, our travel arrangements and medical appointments, the list seemed endless most days. It felt like too much at first, but then I learned how to prioritize tasks. An abundance of help from others was also forthcoming, which I learned to accept gratefully. Thinking back, I don’t know what I’d have done without those people. I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them for their loving care and support.

For two months in particular, things were very difficult for me. After my wife had mesothelioma surgery in Boston, she flew to her parents’ home in South Dakota where she stayed to recuperate and prepare for the second step in her treatment. Lily had already been staying there during the operation, which left me at home, alone, to work at my job and take care of the house. I only saw my family once in a two-month period. After work one Friday evening, I jumped in the car and drove for 11 hours overnight and through a blizzard just to see them. I got there Saturday morning, spent the rest of that day and part of the next with them, then drove the 11 hours back home. After all, my boss still expected me to show up for work on time Monday morning.

It was extremely hard to be separated from my family for so long, but it wasn’t a loss. It simply the most logical and necessary choice at the time. I simply couldn’t care for my wife and our daughter and keep my job at the same time. I can’t say that I look back on any of this with regret. While mesothelioma forced us to make hard decisions, I’m grateful we were even able to make them at all.

From this journey, I learned to accept help with gratitude and to find comfort in the fact that we could still make decisions, no matter how difficult they were. It helped us maintain some degree of control over our lives in a time of great uncertainty.  Despite the odds against her, Heather is here and cancer free over six years later.  I hope that our story can be a source of help and comfort to those currently battling cancer or any harmful disease.

~Cameron Von St. James


PRESS RELEASE: 100 More Miles

21 01 2011

Consider this the official press release from the Long Spin that I will once again be riding 100 miles in the mountains around Lake Tahoe with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program for the sole purpose of raising money to fight and cure blood cancers: leukemia, lymphoma, Hodkin’s disease and myeloma. I should also note that my sister, Shani, will be riding as well. We will both be mentors for the team as well.

After this year I believe my family will have raised in excess of $25,000 in our endeavors with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In total, my family has already raised money to complete two marathons and four 100-mile bike rides. This year will raise that to SIX 100-mile bike rides.

We keep doing this because we haven’t found a cure yet. Someday we will. Every day and every dollar gets us one step closer. We can and we will find a cure.

That’s about all I’m going to say at this point. Soon I will have my online fundraising page setup and will have more info ready to pass on. Stay tuned.

And before I go I will leave you with one photo that will serve as inspiration throughout training and the ride.

Consider yourself press released.



Oklahoma City Marathon via Team In Training

12 11 2010

As pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows, I did a 100 mile bicycle ride with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program.  It was an amazing experience where I accomplished something I said I would never do, I raised a bunch of money for the LLS mission of curing blood cancers, and I met some really amazing friends.  Every year Oklahoma City puts on an incredible event in April/May called the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.  This next year will be the 11th annual Memorial Marathon which was started to benefit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and remember the horrible tragedy from 1995.  They do a full 26.2 mile marathon and a 13.1 half marathon.  It’s a really great and inspiring event.  The streets are lined with thousands of fans to cheer you on and get you to the finish line intact.  It’s a well supported run and a important tribute to the tragic 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in OKC.  It truly is a run to remember.

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is also a Team In Training supported event that has a very reasonable and low fundraising requirement of $1,000.  If you raise $1,000 you will gain entry into the event to either run OR walk the full OR half marathon, you will get some sweet Team In Training schwag like technical shirts for running, you will get access to fully supported and organized training with coaches, and you will get to experience what is considered one of the most emotional marathons in the country while raising money to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  It really is a heck of a deal.

The reason I bring all of this up is two-fold.  1) I’m considering doing this even myself, and 2) I think you should do it too or pitch the idea to someone else you know who would like to do it!  It’s not too late to sign up, training is just about to get started (in fact, the first training run is tomorrow at 9:30am at Red Coyote in OKC, and there are training runs in Tulsa too).  Even if you miss the first couple training runs you still have plenty of time.  The actual event isn’t until May 1, 2011, so it’s even later than usual.

That’s pretty much it.  I just wanted to give everyone the heads up that they should really consider getting involved in this program because it can and will change your life.  Even if you have no experience running, or even if you aren’t in good shape you can complete this with great success.  There aren’t many things I recommend more highly than Team In Training events.  So once more I’ll post the links to the OKC Marathon website and Team In Training’s website and if you have any questions at all just leave a comment on here and I will get back to you.  Or you can even call me, email me, text me, facebook me, twitter me, smoke signal me, tie a string between two cans and hollar at me.  Whatever it takes, if you are even a little bit interested just do this, you will not regret it.

Team In Training Website:

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon Website:

The Fight Against Cancer

17 06 2010

This is the first installment of an ongoing column I have tentatively titled “The Fight Against Cancer” where I will pass on interesting information in the world of cancer research, treatment and technology.

I received the following information in an email from Team In Training and this is really great news for cancer treatment.  Gleevec has been magic for a lot of cancer patients who have found it to be effective.  For some more background on Gleevec check out the Gleevec Wikipedia page here: Gleevec Wikipedia Page.

“This week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, results of long-term clinical trials were presented showing that the drugs Sprycel and Tasigna could potentially replace Gleevec as frontline therapy for treating newly diagnosed chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients. LLS research funding helped advance all of these drugs.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal: ―Gleevec is one of the closest things to a miracle drug to come out of the battle against cancer in recent years. But new research suggests two newer drugs are even more effective for the form of leukemia whose treatment Gleevec has transformed.

Sprycel and Tasigna are currently approved to treat CML patients who did not benefit from Gleevec.  These new findings suggest that Sprycel and Tasigna may additionally prove to be curative. LLS-funded researchers and others are working to confirm this exciting possibility and to better understand the potential toxicities associated with these more potent drugs.”

This is really great news for cancer patients.  It’s always nice to hear about advancements being made.  When you work hard to raise money for cancer research, and when you are someone who donates money to cancer research, it’s a great feeling to know your money is being put to good use.

One step closer in the fight against cancer.