Curiosity may have struck you a few weeks ago, like it did for me, when several friends’ profile photos on Facebook turned shades of purple overnight. After a few instances, I knew that something was going on, and that I missed the boat. One quick Google search later revealed it was an act of support for World Cancer Day. I had a lump in my throat for a good hour or two after watching the associated video from Chevy.
A few weeks later I was reading about a local pastor who had been diagnosed with stage 4 of a rare form of brain cancer and who is now fighting hard for his life.
A few weeks after that I heard the painful news that our local little hero Cash Shank had lost his battle with cancer at the tender age of 6.
Cancer is seemingly everywhere this month… and, I admit, I started to get very down about it. I am no stranger to the grief that cancer can bring, having lost my paternal grandparents to it when I was just a child. It was one of the most painful things I can remember about my young life. My heart wrenched between seeing my grandparents writhe in pain, being eaten away by the awful disease and knowing I was going to lose them before I really knew them. Or maybe it was having to watch my dad, the strongest man I have ever know, break down in utter and total grief. It was heartbreaking.
It’s no wonder that when I got the news just a few months ago that my very best friend was found with cancer that I completely broke apart and dissolved into tears at the very thought, for days. Not my best friend! Why??? Thankfully it has been a treatable cancer and she’s a strong woman, but it has made the journey no easier. Because of my experiences watching many more friends and family be diagnosed and fight, with various results, it catches me in the throat when I hear the word. Cancer. I hate it. I fear it.
Then the strangest thing happened when I got a message from Cameron Von St. James, sharing the amazing story of his wife and family. It was the perfect timing and the very thing my weary heart needed to hear. Almost like it was meant to be.
Cameron’s beautiful wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma (a rare, very aggressive and very deadly cancer) just shortly after giving birth to their beautiful daughter, and was given just 15 months to live. A devastating diagnosis for sure. But Heather is a fighter and with her family on her side, she made the tough decision to have a surgery to remove her entire left lung. Most people would sit around and mourn something so risky and life changing. But not Heather! She and her family (after a suggestion from her sister) declared February 2nd to be “LungLeavin’ Day” when she had her surgery and have celebrated it each year ever since. Heather just celebrated 8 years of being cancer free!
The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears. Each year, their family and friends gather around a fire in their backyard. They write all of their biggest and scariest fears on plates…. and then the smash them into the fire! Cameron told me, “We celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life!” How AMAZING is that?!
I am so inspired and encouraged by their story and their decision to turn something so scary and potentially earth-shattering, into something so powerful and decisive. Though the day has passed, I took a moment on my own, writing my fears onto a simple paper plate, and burned it in my backyard – sorry guys, I didn’t have any smash-worthy plates. But the effect was the same and for the moments following that act, I have let go of some very serious and crippling fears. What a wonderful day. My own LungLeavin’ Day. I am honored to support this cause and want to take this moment and encourage you to visit the LungLeavin’ Day site. There you can read more of Heather’s story and even prepare and smash your own virtual plate. It’s super therapeutic and inspiring so please go and do it now!
May we all continue to fight this awful disease and love and support those who are fighting it. I am so thankful to Cameron, Heather and Lily for giving me the chance to change my attitudes, face my fear and be inspired by their incredible story.