Message of Hope: Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor

Heather contacted me hoping to share her message of hope in time for Asbestos Awareness Week, April 1-7.  I asked her to fill out the hope. wish. dream. be template. Even though she is not a brain tumor survivor, she is a survivor. She is a malignant pleural mesothelioma survivor.  In fact, I’d like to open the hope. wish. dream. be. interview template up to anyone who considers himself/herself a survivor. Please contact me if you are interested in sharing your story. You can email me at

Heather is a cancer survivor and thriver.  If you have questions for her, please post them in the comments. I would like to have a part 2 post with Heather where she answers your questions.


Below are Heather’s answers:

Do you follow “Brain Tumor Thursday”? You could fill out the template…

Such a great and inspirational idea!! I love it!

I hope…for a long and fulfilling life. I feel like most days I’m here, that I am supposed to fill a greater purpose. I am so thankful to just be alive, and I hope to be here for a very long time. I want so much to be with my daughter as she grows up, see her go to her first school dance, her first concert, graduate from High School and go to college. I want grand kids someday!

I wish…for my daughter to grow into whatever she aspires to be in life. I wish for her to have the confidence to achieve whatever she puts her mind to. To have that self confidence to not let people get her down, and to strive to do anything she wants. One caveat, I pray it is legal and moral!


I dream…of a cure for cancer. Not just ONE cancer, ALL cancer. I’ve witnessed what it does to families, emotionally, financially. I lost my own dad to renal carcinoma. I’m still reeling from his loss. This one is personal, I wish I never had to worry about cancer again.

I am (be)…stronger than I thought I ever could be. 10 years ago, if someone asked me if I thought I would be able to go through what I did, I would have said no way. I was always in awe of people who fought illness with such grace and quiet dignity. In my career, I had quite a few cancer survivors as clients. I was honored to shave their heads for them when chemo caused their hair loss. I was with them through the awkward stages as the hair grew back totally different than the hair they lost. I was always so blown away by their strength. Little did I know, I would be in the same spot in a few years. I did what had to do to survive. Anyone would do the same.

Then two things about yourself.

Just two?

I’m a malignant pleural mesothelioma survivor — a cancer almost always caused by asbestos exposure. I’ve outlived my original life expectancy by more than 7 years.

Thank you Heather for sharing your story. You are certainly a survivor and thriver!  Thank you for sharing your message of hope.

If you have questions for Heather, please put them in the comments. She can answer them directly in the comments or we can have her guest post again and share her answers. I would like to know if you were exposed to asbestos and where?

You can find the answer to my question below. I am including Heather’s initial email to me. Sorry I didn’t get it posted during Asbestos Awareness Week. Her story is very interesting. Please take the time to read what she wrote below.

Hi Megan!

Thanks for responding to my comment! I’m reaching out to you today in hopes that you will help me with a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. At age 36, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 ½ months after my first and only child, Lily, was born. I was given just 15 months to live unless I underwent a drastic surgery to remove my left lung. Miraculously, I beat the odds and I’m still here eight years later.

Asbestos is not banned in the US, yet it’s the only known cause of mesothelioma. I was exposed to asbestos through my fathers work jacket when I was just a little girl; my diagnosis came about 30 years later. Once diagnosed, most patients die within 2 years. I am one of few survivors who openly share their story and work to spread awareness regarding the dangers of asbestos.

In honor of Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7), I created a webpage dedicated to raising awareness. Although this week has passed, I would love it if you would be willing to share it on your blog to help educate and protect your readers from this preventable disease!

Here’s the link to my awareness page:

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

I really should be packing for my trip to Washington D.C. I leave tomorrow morning. I am flying into D.C. I am going to the Kennedy Center’s National Seminar for Teaching Artists. I am a professional teaching artist. If you are looking for a writing workshop for your school, business, organization, or group, check out the workshops I offer. I can tailor workshops to meet your needs too.

I spent the day cleaning, which is what I do when I need to be doing other things.

And here I am creating when I should be packing. I don’t like packing because it involves so many decisions. I am not very fond of decisions. Call me indecisive. Call me an Aries. I short circuit.

So, I am creating and this is what I created. I have made a commitment to watermarking my photos no matter how long it takes me. I do feel it takes away from the photo. I am still learning so much professionally.

Well, better get to packing. I hope you like the flower.

I host brain tumor patient profiles on my blog on Thursdays (Brain Tumor Thursday). My mom had benign brain tumors — one in her cerebellum and one on her brain stem.  She was diagnosed in 2000.  She passed away on Christmas Eve, 2012. Her funeral was July 1.  I plan on visiting her grave (urn cubby as I call it) while I am in D.C. this week. My parents are buried (inurned) in the same place. So I will visit both of them. I feel it will be less heavy on my heart as the funeral is over.  That was intense. But beautiful. I do plan on writing a post about it soon. I am writing a piece now which I will present at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference in November.  I am the chair of the Creative Nonfiction panel.

This is the template.

I hope…
I wish…
I dream…
I am…

I am going to fill out the template really fast and not worry about the need to elaborate. Just a quick fill in the blank.

I hope… to publish several books.

I wish… I didn’t worry so much.

I dream… of being on a talk show taking about my book.

I am… a writer.

3 Things about me…

  • I am a mom; my son is three.
  • I consider myself to be highly right-brained.
  • My favorite color is blue, especially the blue hue of my mother’s eyes.

Feel free to fill out the template and email me at I will post it on my blog.

You don’t have to have a brain tumor to submit your profile. If you do have a brain tumor or are a family member of someone who has/had one, please submit your profile and I will post it on a Thursday.

Either way, fill out: I hope, I wish, I dream, I am and share three things about yourself and a photo if you would like. The 3 things and the photo are optional.

This is my home

This is the house where I lived since I was fifteen years old. This is the house where I got married. This is the house where my father died. This is the house that I knew for fifteen plus years. This is my home even though my parents and I don’t live there anymore. My parents rest now at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.
Journal Your Journey


My Christmas Eve Angel — My Mother

“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.” — My facebook post on Christmas Eve

Betty's Christmas Eve Angel Wings. Santa gave her a ride to Heaven on Christmas Eve. Photo from: Mother Nature Network

Betty’s Christmas Eve Angel Wings. Santa gave her a ride to Heaven on Christmas Eve. Photo from: Mother Nature Network


My mother passed away on Christmas Eve two minutes shy of midnight EST while on the phone with me. She loved Christmas Eve so much.
She died peacefully after a long illness that didn’t stop her in her tracks. She was diagnosed in 2000 with benign brain tumors (one in her cerebellum and one on her brain stem). I have written many posts about her struggle and my struggle with these tumors.

I am peace. because she is at peace.

My beautiful mom. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

My beautiful mom. on my wedding day. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

If you want to follow my grief chronicles I am being very open about my feelings on my facebook page, and most posts are public if you would like to follow them and subscribe to them. I am also pretty active on Twitter too. Betty is the most amazing woman I have ever known. I was lucky to call her Mom, friend, and confidant. She loved us kids with all her heart.

Rest in peace my sweet Betty Anne. You had “It.” You were magical.

"A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears." - Anne Roiphe Betty when she worked as the Activities Director at The King Home -- a retirement community for men in Evanston, Illinois.

“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears.” – Anne Roiphe
Betty when she worked as the Activities Director at The King Home — a retirement community for men in Evanston, Illinois.

Here are some posts about her if you would like to read more about her.

The links below take you chronologically in time when I went to Colorado when my mother was very ill and almost died.

I end this post with my mother’s favorite poem by one of her favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran

I have also included the poem in written form below:

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kamilah, Kahlil's mother
Kamilah, Kahlil’s mother. Painting by Kahlil Gibran