A Caretaker’s Story

I received an email from a reader named Cameron Von St. James. His wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Normally when diagnosed with mesothelioma, a person has a life expectancy of about 3-12 months, but after intense treatment and recovery she is still here 7 years later. His story is one of hope and love so I was more than happy to share it as I know there are many people who are or have been caretakers to a loved one. Here is his story:

Supporting My Wife During a Difficult Situation

My wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005. This was an unforgettable day for my family and me. We celebrated the birth of our daughter Lily three months earlier, and now I could only think about becoming a caregiver to a cancer patient. We never imagined dealing with cancer during our first holiday season together.

I realized the challenges of being caregiver to a cancer patient before we even left the doctor’s office. We were given several treatment options, and the doctors expected a decision. However, when I looked over at my wife, I knew that she was still shocked and terrified. I jumped in and made the call for her. I told our doctor that we would be visiting Dr. David Sugarbaker, a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. It was the first of many difficult decisions that we would be making in the coming months.

Over the next two months, our lives consisted of complete turmoil. We were no longer accustomed to our daily routines. Heather could not work during her treatment process, and since I was her caregiver, I could only work part-time. I was faced with so many responsibilities, including doctor’s appointments, travel arrangements, care for Lily; the list went on and on. I was so fearful of losing Heather, becoming broke, and having to raise Lily all alone. The stress and the pressure caused me, on several occasions, to break down crying on the kitchen floor. However, when I was around Heather, I would never shed a tear. I knew I needed to stay strong and was definitely the rock that she needed for support.

Thankfully, we had many friends who stepped in to help. We received help from so many different people in so many different ways. As a result, I always encourage other caregivers of cancer patients to accept any assistance that is offered to them. Regardless of how large or small the offer may be, you should always accept it. There is no room for pride when a loved one’s life is on the line.

When caring for a cancer patient, you will have a difficult job. However, be sure that you do not allow your emotions to take control of you. Allow yourself to have bad days – this is inevitable – but always hold onto hope and keep fighting.

Throughout Heather’s journey through cancer, we always held on to hope. She went through intense and difficult treatment for mesothelioma, and went into full remission. It has been seven years since Heather was diagnosed with cancer, and I am glad to say that she is currently cancer free. My wife’s cancer diagnosis allowed me to see that time is precious, and that we should make the most of every minute.

Two years after Heather’s diagnosis, I went back to school to get my degree. After all of my experiences, I was fully prepared for school; furthermore, I graduated with honors and gave a speech during the graduation. During my graduation speech, I focused on the idea that as long as we believe in ourselves, we can accomplish so much in life. Lily and her mom were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.

Here are some links to find out more about my journey and mesothelioma:




Happy New Year!

Hi everyone,
It feels good to be back after having not written in a few months. I wanted to let you all know that I have had the good fortune to be asked to blog for the Veria Living TV channel blog. It is my favorite channel filled with programs about holistic and alternative health, and living the best life you can. I hope you enjoy my first article, just click on the link below to check it out…thanks!

I was also featured in an article for Edible NJ which I have also attached.

In addition I have been digging deeper into thyroid and autoimmune disease, the various treatments and research which I will share in an upcoming article so stay tuned.

I wish you all a very healthy, happy and peaceful New Year filled with love!


Healthcare – The Great Debate

There has been so much debate over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. As I listen to the different points of view I realize, as always, it’s mostly your party affiliation that makes your decision. Generally if you are an Obama supporter you like it and if you’re not you don’t. However it shouldn’t be that simple. The bill is huge, and unless you have read approximately all 2,074 pages how can you really make an informed decision on whether you agree or not? The whole bill is online for anyone to read however it would be nice to have a five or 10 page (or less) abridged version….a bullet pointed synopsis of exactly what it means for Americans. I started this week to read five pages a day. While it will take me a while, at least I will be able to make an informed opinion on what is written. I have always supported universal healthcare. No one should have to worry about getting sick – as the worrying will make you sick! What I know and like thus far is this: 30 million uninsured Americans will have healthcare. No one with a pre-existing condition will be denied health care; families with children under 26 can keep their children on their health insurance policies; and prescription drug costs would go down for seniors. In addition, I am thrilled that President Obama has consulted with leaders in the alternative healthcare field such as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Dean Ornish about it. Senator Tom Harkin has been a longtime supporter of alternative healthcare and proposed having things like massage, acupuncture, naturopathy and herbal medicine covered. The burden on insurance companies and the system can be greatly reduced if people take care of themselves by keeping their weight within a healthy range, eat right, exercise and practice stress reduction. There are so many ways to stay healthy, and regain health if illness strikes, by various methods of healing – including: herbs, aromatherapy, energy healing, acupuncture, homeopathy and naturopathy, to name a few. Education also needs to be part of the plan (it may be but I haven’t read that part yet:). As a holistic wellness consultant, I find that many people really need guidance about their health and lifestyle and even a mentor to help them make changes.
What I don’t like is that the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies helped write this bill however I understand that President Obama had to make some compromises to get this passed.

Much of what I have heard from people who oppose it are the same issues…..”people shouldn’t be forced to have to pay for healthcare. What if you can’t pay”? If you can’t afford it appears you will get help much like the Medicaid system. The other issue is that there will be people abusing and mooching off the system. Yes there are people who abuse the system and will be until the end of time. That needs to be dealt with and policed but we cannot deny human beings coverage because there are some bad apples. In addition, you can’t throw stones at poor people who need help. You never know when you may need government assistance someday.

The other issue is that some people may not want healthcare or to even participate but they are being forced. I have to read more about this. My initial reaction is that no one should be forced to take it. But on the flip side we all get sick at one point or another. So clearly at some point we are all going to need some form of healthcare. If you are in the 1% that can pay your bills cash, great, however, most people can’t and one visit to a hospital can bankrupt you.

Clearly this is a heated issue and there are pros and cons of this bill. You will never please everyone. My hope is that over time, as with social security when it was started, the bill can be tweaked to further benefit Americans. Information is power so the first step is to be informed. We can’t complain about the problem unless we are willing to be part of the solution.

Be well,

Hoarding & Letting Go

My hubby and I are helping a friend who is a hoarder clean out her storage unit. She simply cannot afford to keep it so I have encouraged her to go through it and try to sell things she doesn’t want anymore. It is amazing how attached to useless things we can be. The attachment is so strong that when I suggested throwing some of the things out or donating them I saw sheer panic. I realized that this is much bigger than just downsizing and it had to be handled delicately. I am the opposite. If I don’t use something within 6 months I kiss it goodbye. A few years back I read the Tao De Ching which is a Chinese classic text that can be a blueprint for your life but one part of it talked about attachments so I decided to take about 4 big green trash bags and 2 boxes full of stuff I loved to good will. We always give away what we don’t want but it’s much more powerful to “let go” of what we love. I even put some things in there that belonged to my mother who has been gone many years….gasp, gasp! I know what you are thinking because I have heard it before…how could I do that? My mother and father will always and forever be in my heart. I don’t need things to remind me of them or make me think about them. I feel them and that is all I need. Let another person enjoy her beautiful pieces of china that will bring new happiness and good memories. Releasing that stuff was such a freeing feeling that I don’t have anything in my attic or basement. I even got rid of all my yearbooks from school! I never held on to much but I hold on to even less now. We have become a culture of collecting things to fill up our lives and what is supposed to make us feel better…but that’s short-lived. And that’s why we need to go out and get more stuff!

Psychologists say that hoarders feel safe when they have all these possessions around them. Similarly, our body is like a storage unit where we put things and then forget about them for years. However they are still there and belong to us which leaves us with a responsibility to deal with them….or not. In yoga it is believed that memories are stored in our hips which explains why you hear that older people break their hips. They are frail from all the memories stored in there that they never dealt with. They can just sit there as we collect more. A cluttered house is a metaphor for a cluttered mind and soul. Once you start getting rid of those layers it becomes very freeing.

Buddha says that our attachment to things is what brings great unhappiness. Detachment and forgiveness is the way to true and lasting happiness. What are you holding on to that would better serve you if you let it go?

Peace and release,

The Pros and Cons of Competition

Very early in life we are taught that competition is good and makes you strive to achieve and fulfill your greatest potential. It sounds great but what is absent from that theory is that sometimes getting wrapped up in competing never allows you to get to know yourself. If you are always consumed with doing better than someone else how can you discover your own goals and dreams?

It seems that there is so much emphasis on winning that society puts on you, and having more than everyone else is somehow analogous to success. Whether it is more success, more money, or more material possessions, even the race to look younger has become a competition. Teenagers are joining the millions of adults getting injected with Botox and Restylane. Nowhere is this more evident than television. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing both adults and children competing against one another. It would be fine if it wasn’t filled with such anger and determination to win at any cost. The message is clearly that winning is everything when in fact there is so much to learn from not winning, mainly humility, and that the reality is that we all can’t win all the time – and it’s ok. The desire to always be number one brings stress and frustration. What about being a good sport and being happy for the winner?

As someone who loves to cook I always liked the food channel. However, recently the same has happened there. Cupcake wars? Must we have a war on cupcakes? What have they ever done to us except be delicious? There are other shows similar in nature on the food network where people run around with a gladiator mentality over a chicken dish! Then there are the shows that pin children against one another in competition. What is sad is that the parents are fully engaged in it as well exhibiting child like behavior. The over-the-top effect may be shock value for TV but the message is extremely disturbing. Clearly competition is present in life and can build character if it is handled in a way that is fair and sends a message that it’s ok not to always come out on top. Perfection is a subjective illusion anyway, isn’t it? It’s all in our heads. It’s what we each deem as perfect. Why don’t we already feel perfect? Because perfect has been perceived as what others believe perfect to be, and we can never really live up to what others think that is. We should only be concerned with how we feel about our accomplishments or lack thereof. Trying to achieve some false sense of perfection only sets us up for failure. There will always be someone in life who has more than you but who cares? Be yourself. We all have our own style and uniqueness which makes us interesting – and perfect! I doubt Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein or Bob Dylan were concerned with being like everyone else, and they did ok for themselves.

If you find yourself on the treadmill of always trying to top yourself and others, try this…..take about ten minutes a day (twice a day would be even better), and find a place that is quiet to be all by yourself. You can even light some incense or a candle, close your eyes and just ask the question….Who am I and what do I want? If thoughts come into your head, just take a deep breath and ask the question again. Be still and meditate on that each day. Being still and quiet may bring up things that are uncomfortable at first to think about but pushing away those thoughts will just bring them up at a later time. Accumulating toxic emotions that do not get addressed can cause illness so stay with it even if it’s uncomfortable. Over time that feeling will fade. Consider it practicing a little self preservation. And over time you may start to realize who you are and what you want to achieve in life – your way – and in that lies the perfection of you.