Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guest Post: Heather Von St. James

I was contacted several weeks ago about doing a guest post.  Heather is a survivor of mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.  She strives to raise public awareness of asbestos exposure and has created an online support community for others undergoing mesothelioma treatment.  Here is her story:

A New Mother, Fighting for Her Life

One of the most eventful times in a woman’s life is when she’s expecting a baby and that was no exception for me. My pregnancy was normal, feeling each movement and kick of the little one growing inside.  My husband, his family, my family, and many dear friends – whom I lovingly refer to as my “village” – were there for me throughout the pregnancy, as well as my child’s entrance into this world.  My daughter, Lily, was born on August 4, 2005.  It all seemed so perfect.

Much earlier than I wanted to, I returned to work when Lily was approximately a month old.  Although I did not feel well, I thought it was just a case of the “baby blues”.  I did not have any energy and experienced difficulty catching my breath. After undergoing various tests, on November 21, 2005, I was diagnosed as having malignant pleural mesothelioma.  I was devastated. There I stood with a three-and-a-half month old baby girl – one of the most joyous times in my life – and was slapped with the news that I had cancer.  Having been exposed to asbestos as a child, 30 years ago, the lining in one of my lungs had been disturbed, and there I was.  

To make matters worse, unless I started immediate treatment, my doctor gave me a life expectancy of 15 months. I could not imagine my husband and baby girl having to live without me. I knew I had to do whatever it took to beat this “monster” that had stormed into our lives.  While my parents cared for Lily, in my  home of South Dakota, I began my quest for the best possible treatment. After much research, my husband and I were off to Boston to seek the help of one of the best mesothelioma specialists in the country.

On February 2, 2006, I underwent a surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy, where the affected lung was removed, along with the surrounding tissue.  My hospital recovery time was 18 days, followed by an additional two months of healing, after which I moved on to radiation and chemotherapy.  

While in Boston, my village grew.  We met families going through the same traumatic experience.  They leaned on us and we leaned back for some extremely beneficial support.  While building our circle of support in Boston, my parents were doing the same in South Dakota.  Girls whom I had babysat were now babysitting my Lily. Their support means more to me than words could ever express.

When I first welcomed Lily into this world, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would have to battle mesothelioma in the first chapter of her life. I had to experience many of her “firsts” through photos.  It was my love for her and my village, and their support, that gave me the strength to battle this disease and reach for the stars.  I eventually recovered and am now cancer-free.  Never take anything in life for granted, for nothing is guaranteed.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Burp cloths: nifty tips

I have stacks and stacks of burp cloths.  Just because my daughter will be starting school this fall doesn't mean I can't put them to good use. 

Burp cloths make great rag rollers.  All you need are some scissors.  Just cut the burp cloths into strips and you are set.  If your hair is shoulder length or shorter, try 2'' wide strips.   If your hair is longer than shoulder length, I would recommend 2.5-3'' wide strips.  Burp cloths tend to hold moisture so your set may need more time to dry.  I recommend starting with barely damp hair.

I use burp cloths extensively for my make-up and skin care routine.  In the morning, I wash my face and use a burp cloth to dry my face.  I get dressed, and do my hair.  And then I take the same burp cloth, and tuck it into the neckline of my garment, like a bib.  This keeps makeup and powder off my clothes.  After I apply my powder, I like to use the burp cloth to gently buff my makeup.  This blends everything and prevents me from looking chalky.  I put the burp cloth away, but I'm not done with it yet!  I like to use the same burp cloth to remove the bulk of my makeup.  I apply olive oil to my face and rub it in to dissolve the grime and make-up.  Then I wipe it away with the same burp cloth.  If I am wearing a lot of make-up, I like to moisten the burp cloth with hot water, otherwise I leave it dry.  Then I toss it into the laundry hamper and hop in the shower.  One burp cloth, one day

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flowergirl Dress Alteration

It's wedding season!  Here is one of Valentine's flower girl dresses and this is how I let it out.

Start with the zipper open, and the dress inside out.  The center back seam in the lining has a top stitched section.  This is the gateway to the innards of the dress.  The lining is sewn into the hem; otherwise this would be much easier.

Pull the inside of the dress through the hole in the center back seam.  Have a mild heart attack, and then find the tail of the zipper.

Follow the tail up into the center back seam.  There should be four intersecting seams but only two are sewn to the zipper.  Just spread the seam allowances and check for the edge of the zipper tape.  Gotcha!

Follow that seam, working your way to the neckline, turning that side completely inside out.  You will likely need to clip a few tacks.

On the tooth side of the zipper, pin baste the lining to the outside of the dress.  This will make sure they stay lined up when the seams are picked.  I let it out from ~1.5" inches below the neckline to ~2" below the waistline.

One side of the seam will have two rows of stitching close together.  The other side only has one.  Pick the outer most seam and tie off the loose ends ~ 1" from the neckline.

Work your way down to ~2" below the waistline.  Tie off the loose ends.  You may encounter some difficulty in the area of the waistband; work gently with the seam ripper.  The waistband and bow may come off with this seam; we'll put them back on when we are done.

Now this is what it should look like.  The lining and outside of the dress are separated.  The zipper is still attached to the outside of the dress.

Pick the remaining seam and tie off the loose ends ~.5" before the previous seam was tied off.  Work your way down and do the same at the bottom.

Everything is separated!

Pin baste the zipper to the right side of the dress, gradually moving it towards the edge of the fabric. Don't let the edge of the zipper tape go beyond the edge of the fabric.  Use a zipper foot to sew close to the teeth.

Sandwich the zipper between the lining and the outside of the dress.  Thread baste through all layers, 3/8" from the zipper seam, on the tape side.  Here you can see the new zipper seam (in black) and the thread basting (in white).  Sew through all layers, 2/8" from the zipper seam on the tape side.  Remove basting stitches.

Repeat on the other side.

Turn the dress through the hole in the center back seam.  And make sure everything is okay before sewing shut.

If the waistband has come loose, hand sew to the original seam line, using a blind stitch.  And hand sew the bow back onto dress with a few tacks. 

All done!!