Last week, a reader named Heather contacted me and asked if she could share her story. Now, being a mom myself, I can only imagine her fear with dealing with cancer while being a new mom. Heather hopes that by sharing her story, she can educate others on the dangers of asbestos, and possibly save others from suffering the same things she's been through.
Hope for Mesothelioma Patients.
I was diagnosed with cancer. Is there any other word in the English language, which can sear the soul with such fear and dread? Three and a half months before this frightening news I gave birth to a new baby. My life should have been filled with joy.
Instead I’m told I have cancer; specifically, malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma cancer is expressly caused by asbestos exposure. Wasn’t asbestos banned years ago? How could you have been exposed to asbestos?
These are the questions I am commonly asked after explaining my condition to others. No, asbestos has not been banned. My contact with asbestos was through secondary exposure. My father worked in construction, primarily drywall taping, mudding and sanding. What seemed like ordinary white dust was actually microscopic asbestos fibers. He unwittingly brought millions of these fibers home through his jackets and work clothes, as well as leaving particles behind in his car.
When I learned of my diagnosis at the age of 36, the Mayo clinic had known of only one other person who had contracted the disease at such a young age. Typically, older males who have worked in specific trades such as plumbing, heating, electrical, and work on military ships, are the usual candidates for mesothelioma. These men brought home their dirty laundry covered with asbestos for their wives to clean. The wives vigorously shook out the clothes before tossing them into washing machines. Thus began the second generation of Mesothelioma sufferers.
I was the start of a disturbing trend. I am speaking of the children of those hard working fathers. Men weren’t the only people exposed. Little girls jumped into the arms of their fathers; arms covered with asbestos. Women worked in schools as either teachers or secretaries, in offices and classrooms laden with asbestos. Women became ill. Children going to these schools with asbestos tiles crumbling down around them were the next group to eventually become ill. They were victims even in their homes where attics were filled with asbestos containing materials. Millions of homes across the nation were contaminated with asbestos, unbeknownst to the families living in them.
Think of all the children who couldn’t wait to hang out with their dads after he had worked all day installing pipes and installation. Picture them wearing daddy’s coat to feed the rabbits, so that they wouldn’t soil their own; coats contaminated with asbestos. These children are the next generation of mesothelioma patients.
While becoming involved in the mesothelioma community, I have met many young patients. These are young men and women just starting their lives, in their late 20’s and early 30’s. They are starting careers, getting married and having babies. Upon diagnosis their lives have come to a screeching halt, and they are now focusing on fighting and beating the disease. The good news is; people of all ages are surviving due to the many advances in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Having cancer of course is devastating, but I persist in holding onto hope. Those of us in the mesothelioma community do the same as we come together to support one another and share our experiences. We cry together when the road is tough and we celebrate the victories.
Nothing will change unless there is more awareness. I share my story to bring about awareness and to offer hope. If I can do this for even just one newly diagnosed person, or keep them from living in fear of mesothelioma, then I’ve done my job. I have a purpose in doing the right thing.
Thank you Heather for sharing your story! You can get in contact with Heather and keep up with her story here.