“When It Really Takes a Village” – guest post

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"When it Really Takes a Village"

by Heather Von St. James  

Does it really take a village to raise a child? Well, not always, but when it does, that village is desperately needed. My daughter Lily was born on August 4, 2005. We did not need a village then. The pregnancy went well. She was healthy. I felt like a new mom is supposed to feel. Our village made itself known then, though. They came to meet our new baby and congratulate my husband and me. Our parents, our families and our friends were a welcome presence. Little did we know, Lily would need them soon.

A few weeks after I had Lily, I got back to work. This was the plan and it was going as it was supposed to until I started feeling out of breath and tired. Sure, it could have been new mom syndrome, but I had the feeling it was not. I saw my doctor and underwent some tests, only to find out I was right, but it was far worse than I thought. I had malignant pleural mesothelioma — deadly cancer. Without help, I would die in little over a year. My daughter was then less than four months old.

I could not die, Lily needed me. My husband and I were supposed to raise her together. I had to fight for my life; I could not give up on them. There was no choice but to undergo surgery to remove my left lung. The treatment for mesothelioma took me far from home, my husband and I went to Boston and I had a successful operation and recovery in the hospital was more than two weeks. After that, there were two months of recovery before I could start the chemotherapy and radiation needed to stave off my cancer.

This is where my village comes in. While my husband and I were in Boston, my parents had our Lily in South Dakota, where I grew up. So many people surrounded us to help. There were the expected, the unexpected and the notably absent. My parents had lives of their own to lead, but a village sprang up around them too. People helped with Lily so they could work and my mom did the best she could to keep me updated on my daughter.

I could not see Lily and that was difficult. I knew I was fighting this monumental fight so I could be there for her, but all I had of her were pictures from my parents. She was thriving, which was wonderful. She was eating, rolling around and growing up. It made me sad that I was not there, but I learned a lot from fighting for my life. My parents got closer to Lily than they may have otherwise and I met new members to add to my village in Boston — people who were also struggling like me. Now, we know better than to take the good for granted. We try live life the best way possible and appreciate all that we still have.

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Gena is the mom of three boys, ages 7, 5, and 2. She is the wife of a great man, a Christian, blogger, and former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom. They live in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth, Texas area.

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