light your fears on fire

10yearsI was recently contacted by an inspiring woman named Heather Von St. James who, a decade ago, was told by doctors that she only had 15 months left to live. She wasn’t asking me for money or gifts, she simply wanted her story shared to raise awareness and inspire hope.  Her story resonated with me, and so does her message, so even though this isn’t my typical humor post – I hope you’ll continue reading her story.

In 2005, Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure when she was a kid. Her cancer wasn’t caused by smoking, drinking, or anything thought to be menacing – she was simply a little girl who liked to put on a coat her father wore to his construction job. To make matters worse – the diagnosis came a mere handful of months after giving birth to her daughter. She heard the news that so many people fear –  she only had 15 months left to live. (Can you imagine coming face-to-face with death? The possibility you would not only leave your husband behind… but you would miss out on your daughter’s life?) Along with chemo, Heather braved a terrifying, yet successful, surgery to remove her left lung. She has coined the day of her surgery (February 2nd)  ‘Lung Leavin’ Day‘ and she celebrates the anniversary every year.

LLD_plateLung Leavin’ Day is all about facing your fears and not letting them control you. I can only imagine what Heather felt. The fear of dying and leaving her family behind. That her daughter would be without a mother. Having the money for treatment. Whether or not the surgery would be successful. Every year she, along with friends and family, celebrate Lung Leavin’ Day on February 2nd by writing their fears on plates and smashing them into a fire. This year, Alex and I are joining her.

Truthfully, neither of us have ever been through anything as scary or traumatic as Heather, but there’s no doubt we have our own fears. Rather than writing them on a plate and smashing it, we opted for lighting a paper plate on fire. There’s something very calming and cathartic about seeing your fears go up in flames.

Guys, life is too short to be controlled by fear and things that aren’t in our control. Be thankful for what you have. What you’ve had in the past. And for every day that you have here.

lungleavinday2016 Here’s our burning plate. My #1 fear? Infertility. Alex’s? Failure. 

There is a lot more to Heather’s story than what I wrote in this summary.
Visit her page here where she goes into detail about her cancer diagnosis and recovery.
– Want to smash a plate without lighting a fire? Visit her interactive page to smash a virtual plate.
– Visit mesothelioma.com to learn more about this deadly form of cancer.

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72 thoughts on “light your fears on fire

  1. Justice&Humanity says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Fear is a very powerful thing. It can definitely be paralyzing. In 2012, I was at death’s door. I had sepsis due to a largely harmless fungal infection that got into my bloodstream due to cracked skin from lymphedema on my foot, the latter the result of traumatic injury from being hit by a car four years earlier. The lymphedema often causes a lot of pain, and there is a chance, at some point in the future, that it could become cancerous. But I have dealt with other types of fear and other threats, and I a primed fighter. It is exhausting, but it is necessary. You cannot only do it for others, though; you must start with yourself. The ones you love are part of yourself, of course, at least for most of us. There are truly times, though, when you just have to work through things: painfully, horrendously, and no matter how much others love you and agonize over what you are going through, no one really understands unless they have been there, and even then, it is an exceedingly lonely experience, even when you are surrounded by love and well-wishers.

      • Justice&Humanity says:

        In a lot of ways, things I endured previously provided the strength to get through it. I am always caught in this sort of mental bind: what I have gone through, the things which made my PTSD flare, have undoubtedly given me strength and empathy I am not sure I would have if I had not endured them. So if given the chance, if it were actually possible, would I erase those truly awful experiences and risk being a different person? Would that be person be very different? Better? Worse off? More shallow? Would she have less empathy? One never knows, does one? ‘we’ve got what we’ve got, and who we are because of all of that.

  2. Joe says:

    Great story. I’ve been to ceremonies on New Years Eve where you do something similar to this. It’s a form of release.
    Thanks for posting this. I love to read stories like this, Joe

  3. chattykerry says:

    Great post and an amazing lady. What an unusual way to get cancer and so relieved that she is still alive and kicking. I had the last rites as a baby and I got sepsis in Egypt so for the most part I think death is always around the corner so why be frightened. As my mother would say, “You could be run over by a bus”.

  4. hughcurtler says:

    It’s so easy to say “Don’t be afraid.” It’s so hard not to feel it when you are told you have a cancer inside you. But to be told that there is nothing they can do makes matters even worse. I can only imagine.

  5. James Elizabeth says:

    Wow, great read! I’m about 3 1/2 years cancer free myself. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was 22 weeks pregnant with my son. It’s inspiring to see a 10 year milestone for sure! Congrats to her and what an awesome experience to share! Thanks for the read!

  6. Tippy Gnu says:

    It’s crazy that you can catch cancer simply by putting on someone’s coat. I guess I’d write “unknown” on my plate. Second place would be food poisoning, which is always a good reason to throw a plate in the fire.

  7. 2ndhalfolife says:

    Life’s too short for LOTS of stuff! I’ve said it a million of times, but in my jobs as a medic and medical examiner I saw death in the face too many times. I just say: grab life by the balls/ovaries and live each day! Don’t let jobs, people, money issues, illness/pain or anything get you down. There are always ways to live in a happy and positive way and people willing to help if only you want to change the way you think. As long as you are here on this side of the grass, live with joy! 🙂

  8. Jessica Adam says:

    I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say here. I LOVE THIS. Needed this TODAY. Thank you for sharing something that isn’t your norm. 🙂

    What I love most is that every instance that someone steps over fear and does something soooooo brave, the world is changed. Love her yearly celebration, too. Bravo to her and you, Blair.

    PS I lived through infertility. 5 long years. Here for ya if that’s ever a possibility. 🙂

  9. RunBikeThrow says:

    “Guys, life is too short to be controlled by fear and things that aren’t in our control. Be thankful for what you have. What you’ve had in the past. And for every day that you have here.”

    I have just found my blog’s Quote of the Month for February.

  10. cirtnecce says:

    Very inspiring! I have faced a lot of trauma and have been blessed to come out of it! But I still fear that i will will fail and lose it all! So I guess Alex and I have the same fear – Failure! I think I too will virtually smash some plates! Great post!

  11. Jamie Lyn Weigt says:

    Oh my word… such a wonderful story, first of all, thank you for sharing — but secondly, I’ve been browsing around looking for a writing prompt for my Monday post, and you’ve just handed to me on… well, a paper plate! O.O THANK YOU, and after it’s written, I’ll come back and leave a link in case you’d like to check it out. 🙂

  12. April says:

    Thanks for sending me to Heather’s page. As a lung cancer survivor I am even more encouraged by her story. I celebrate on May 31st and I think I have a new way to do it…I like lighting the paper on fire, but smashing a plate would seem very satisfying. I like demolition.

  13. Otakraft says:

    Thank you for sharing her story. I can’t fathom the courage she has, but I’ve heard a great way to view fear is that you might be afraid of something, but aren’t you more afraid of regret?

  14. momtheobscure says:

    Very inspiring story, so glad it has a happy ending. My fear is finding out I am a coward once faced with true hardship. I have already faced infertility – it wasn’t pretty, but did have a happy ending.

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