Becoming My Wife’s Caregiver Equipped Me for the Future

Guest Post By Cameron Von St. James

MesotheliomaNovember 21st of 2005, I heard of malignant pleural mesothelioma for the first time in my life.  My daughter Lily was three months old and my wife, Heather had been feeling ill for several weeks.  When we took Heather to the doctor, we found out she had mesothelioma, a rare and extremely deadly form of cancer.  We felt our lives falling into a stream of chaos and I felt helpless as the doctor explained the serious nature of this type of cancer.  Without hesitation, I accepted the challenge to become my wife’s caregiver, and I knew I would have to do everything in my power to see that she got better.  I could not imagine my life without Heather and I was going to fight to support her and help her win this battle no matter what.

Our doctor listed our treatment options we had available to get Heather help and we chose a specialist in Boston.  While we also had two other options for treatment that were closer to home, we wanted Heather to have an experienced mesothelioma program that would give her the absolute best chance of survival possible.  This is why we chose Dr. Sugarbaker in Boston.  Upon hearing the choices for treatment, all I had to do was glance at my wife to see the stricken look on her face.  The realization of how serious and how much of a struggle this was going to be was quickly sinking in for both of us.  I told our doctor, “We need to get to Boston quickly!”

During the months following Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis, our lives were completely hectic.  Previous to this time, we both had been working full time.  Heather could not work now, and my work hours were dramatically reduced to just part time.  Although we lost income and we gained new expenses, we were able to manage thanks to the help of an outpouring of love from a generous community.  Family members were also incredibly supportive of us in every way.  People volunteered to make meals, babysit for us and just be there to help us out in numerous ways.  The support and love that was bestowed on us by so many people made it possible for us to continue to get Heather treated without our household and our finances completely falling apart.

While we did receive a lot of support, there were also times when I was simply overwhelmed with all of the tasks before me.  I tried my best to stay strong for Heather, and for Lily; but I was also exhausted, worried and stressed.  There were occasions where I just collapsed and cried for a long time.  After I regained my composure, I knew I just had to keep moving on one day at a time. Heather went through a long series of treatments that were incredibly difficult on her, but she also remained strong and as positive as possible. I will forever be impressed by her strength and courage throughout this difficult time.
If anyone finds himself in a position where he is a caregiver for someone, I just want to stress the importance of taking help from people.  It is common for many people to try to handle everything on their own, but being a caregiver is also about accepting support when it is offered.  Not only will it help to make your load a bit lighter, it will also ripple throughout your family and to the one you are caring for.

It took several years for my life to get back to a steady and consistent routine.  Looking back now on what we went through, I am amazed at how well we met the challenge that faced us.  Even though at the time it did not feel like we were coping well, we managed to make it through each day to face the next one.  Despite the terrifying odds, Heather managed to beat mesothelioma.  It has been seven years since her heartbreaking diagnosis, and she remains cancer free and healthy to this day.

I went back to school to continue my education when Lily was two years old.  Through the process of being Heather’s caregiver, while also being a father and an employee, I learned I could handle much more than what I had previously thought.  This new realization about myself made me ambitious to take on more challenges.  I studied Information Technology, and when I graduated, I was the speaker for the graduation ceremony.  A few years earlier, sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing that my wife might only have months to live, I never would have imagined where my life could take me.  That was the theme of my speech that day, and Lily and her healthy, happy mother were in the audience to cheer me on.  Never give up hope, and never stop fighting for the ones you love.

Your Lungs After Quitting Smoking – This Is What You’ve Done To Yourself

It is unfortunate that before you took your first puff on a cigarette, someone didn’t sit you down and show you a catalogue of the damage you’d likely cause yourself by taking up that infernal habit (complete with goopy, color pictures).  Even a blind man could see, in the face of all the evidence, that smoking DOES damage your lungs while smoking and continues to damage your lungs after quitting smoking too. It also has a flow-on effect to your whole body causing harm to many systems. And it does this to a greater extent, and faster, the more you smoke and the longer you keep smoking.  The following is a list of the major damage that you could have done to your body by smoking. You have to accept that you did this, take responsibility for it, and then apply yourself to the task of making it as right as you can. You can’t continue to avoid it, or you’ll just keep making it worse.

As you read through this section, remind yourself:

1. Why you quit or are looking to quit

2. What you have to look forward to if you do go back (damn good motivation to stay clean)

3. Why you are working hard to improve your health!

Please note: Some of the following conditions may not have developed during your smoking ‘career.’  Others, well they are unavoidable, at least to some extent, after your first month of smoking.  If you want to know how you have been effected by your time smoking, please consult your local, qualified medical practitioner.

Damage Done Over Years of Smoking

Tobacco smoke has over 4000 chemicals in it.  These include Ammonia (used in toilet cleaner), Acetone (nail polish remover), Nicotine (insecticide at high doses), Carbon monoxide (a poison found in car exhaust fumes), Arsenic (used in rat poison), Hydrogen cyanide (gas chamber poison), Benzene (petrol additive).

This toxic chemical amalgam that enters the lungs in the form of tobacco smoke is collectively called ‘tar’ when it coats surfaces, like  fingers, teeth and air sacks of the lungs. The tar in tobacco cigarettes is a major cause of lung cancer, emphysema and bronchitis. The toxins from the tar can damage lung cells that keep tumors from forming. Cigarette tar also damages cilia in the lungs, the small, hair-like structures which protect the lining of the lungs. In addition to the discoloring of teeth, tar can cause periodontitis, a gum disease that can result in the loss of teeth.

Lung cancer: your chances of getting lung cancer depend on your genetic susceptibility, the length of time you were a smoker and how much you smoked over that time.  This is referred to as pack-years (the average number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years you’ve smoked).  The greater the pack-years, the greater the risk. When you’re getting up around 50 pack-years and beyond, that’s a lot. If people have a lot of pack-years, the risk of, say, lung cancer never goes back down to the risk of a non-smoker.

Emphysema: a disease caused by the destruction of the alveoli (small, sack like structures at the lower periphery of the lungs) and associated capillaries (tiny blood vessels), where gas exchange takes place (oxygen is taken into the body, and carbon dioxide (a waste product) is released).  Undamaged, adult, human lungs have an internal surface area around 753 sq. ft (70 m2), which is roughly one half of the standard-sized tennis court surface!  The capillaries that surround the alveoli (the other side of the gas exchange equation) run to a length of about 620 miles (nearly 1000 km)!  As gas exchange is all about surface area, you can imagine that this give a healthy person a considerable rate of gas exchange.  This is far more than is needed ‘at rest,’ but as a person’s exertions increase, so does their need for gas exchange. As emphysema progresses, this maximal volume/min of gas exchange decreases, effecting your ability to exert yourself.  So the tiny little air sacs become bigger ones — and they’re less efficient in transporting oxygen. The lung can’t grow new walls for these air sacs. The lung loses tiny blood vessels and can’t grow new ones. So that’s permanent. Anyone who has smoked for more than a few months has at least some level of emphysema.

(Chronic) Bronchitis: a disease caused by inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the bronchial tubes (the larger ‘pipes’ leading down to the alveoli, where gas exchange occurs). Long-term bronchitis, termed ‘chronic,’ is an inflammation and swelling of the lining of the airways that lead to their narrowing and obstruction.  This inflammation stimulates production of mucus (sputum), which can cause further obstruction of the airways. Some of this inflammation can be reversed. But if the inflammation has led to scarring of the walls of the airway, some of that cannot.  Again it depends on how long you’ve been smoking, and how many you smoked each day.  Also, obstruction of the airways, especially with mucus, increases the likelihood of bacterial infections in your lungs after quitting smoking or during your smoking days.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): a collective term for disease effecting the lungs due to smoking (but can also be caused by other factors, such as long-term exposure to high levels of air pollutants and occupational causes), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD): the narrowing and hardening of the arteries resulting in decreased blood flow in parts of the body other than the heart or brain.  This is caused by some of the chemicals in tobacco smoke that are absorbed into the blood stream and transported around the body when you smoke.  These chemicals make the walls of the blood vessels sticky, which allows cholesterol and other dangerous fatty material to build up on the inner walls of the arteries and clogging them.  Combined with the artery walls hardening (becoming less elastic), this all results normal blood flow becoming more difficult, making the heart work harder (which can lead to heart failure, amongst other things).  This reduced blood flow is most critical in the capillaries, which already have very small internal diameters, so you can imagine it doesn’t take a lot to block them completely.  Lack of blood flow to an area can cause that area to die, and gangrene is the result.

Increased Risk of Many Cancers: Besides lung cancer, smoking had been linked to the increased chance of many types of cancer, including breast cancer, throat cancer, some types of colon cancer, cancer of the tongue, cheek or lips, stomach cancer, urinary bladder cancer, and many more.

Many other minor and peripheral health problems such as: Alzheimer’s Disease, Lupus, Impotence, Blindness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acid Reflux, Snoring, Depressed Immune System, hair loss, increased face wrinkles, premature aging, halitosis, stained teeth, stomach ulcers, insomnia and more.

Okay, that’s enough of the doom and gloom. If you have quit smoking or are looking to stop smoking for all the above mentioned reasons, and now let’s work on making you healthier and happier. If you haven’t already, jump over to our main page and check out the great deal available on our flagship product, The Complete Lung Detoxification Guide.  With this program, you’ll not only get the best advice available for clearing your lungs after quitting smoking of all that toxic tar, but if you haven’t quit yet, or are having trouble quitting, we’ve got that covered too.  Also, you’ll find out of lot about ‘why’ you’ve smoked, which will help you understand and follow our tried and tested methods for staying quit, and living a healthier, smoking-free life.

Until next time,

stay well, stay quit, and lung-toxin free.

~William Renolds