When she was in elementary school, Heather Von St. James would head out to feed and play with the family’s rabbits, kept in a hutch in her father’s garage workshop. In the frequently chilly air of the Black Hills of South Dakota, she’d slip into her dad’s warm work coat before heading out. The coat swallowed her up at 7 and 8 years old, but it was conveniently hanging on the door in the entryway for her to grab if she went out to check the mail or grab the newspaper.
It wasn’t until nearly three decades later, after Heather had had her own child, that the consequences of wearing her dad’s work coat came to fruition: just three months after giving birth to her daughter, Heather was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Unknown to her and her dad, his work in construction, working with drywall and concrete materials, regularly exposed him to asbestos.
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