Today it is an honor to share my blog with Heather from The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog. Heather helps raise awareness about mesothelioma ~a type of cancer that she was diagnosed with a few months after her daughter was born in 2005, and she is now a 6 year cancer survivor. She is a beacon of hope for others that have this disease. I loved this quote from their site ~As awareness builds, so does HOPE. So today it’s my hope you that you will be touched as you learn a little bit more about Heather, this type of cancer & her amazing story. So here she is….meet Heather.
Before I heard these words, I had been on top of the world. My baby girl Lily had been born just 3 ½ months before, and I was blissful in my new role as mommy. I never imagined hearing these fateful words at such a wonderful time, and the type of cancer I was diagnosed with seemed impossible—malignant pleural mesothelioma — the kind you get from asbestos exposure. I thought asbestos was banned, so how did I get it, and where was I exposed?
Those are the first two question I asked, and those are always the first two questions anyone asks when I tell them my unfortunate news. The unbelievable answers are “no” and “secondary exposure.”
My father worked in the construction industry, and I could always tell when he came home from work, for his clothing would be dusty from the drywall taping, sanding and mudding he did, and his car was always covered in this innocent looking white powder that contained microscopic asbestos fibers in the millions.
I was only 36 when I was diagnosed, and the Mayo clinic said I was only the second case they had heard of in someone my age.
At that time, the usual mesothelioma patients were workers in various trades, such as electrical, heating, plumbing and mechanical, or they came from ships in the military, but they were all male, and they were all older than me.
After I was diagnosed, I began hearing of wives getting sick. These women were just doing their wifely duties. Like so many homemakers, they were just shaking out their husband’s dusty, dirty clothes before washing them. The only difference was these clothes were laden with asbestos.
So many women got sick that way, but just as many seemed to get sick from doing secretarial work in asbestos-laden schools.
My case was only the beginning of what is now an alarming trend. The next generation is appearing. Patients are being diagnosed with mesothelioma at younger and younger ages. They are former students who had the misfortune of attending classes in asbestos-laden schools. Some got it from innocently playing in their vermiculite-insulated attics that were brimming with asbestos, and many little children got it from happily giving their dirty daddy a welcome home hug after he had been hard at work installing pipe insulation all day.
I have become very involved in the mesothelioma community, and I am getting to know many young patients. Lots of them are just beginning their young adult lives, and they are in their late ’20s or early ’30s. Many of them have just gotten married, landed a new job, or recently had their first child when they are diagnosed. They are forced to put everything on hold just to beat it.
Thankfully, the survival rate of this disease is better than it used to be, so there is good news. Advances in modern medicine are giving many patients new hope, and people of all ages are going into remission.
The diagnosis of mesothelioma is, without a doubt, devastating, but there is hope, and I continue to hold on to it, as do many others. As a community, we are here for each other. We support each other, cry when we need to and celebrate each and every victory.
There is strength in numbers, and that is why I do what I do. Awareness is key, so that is why I share my story. It’s all about making a difference to bring about change. If what I say can quell the fear of mesothelioma, or offer hope to someone who has just been diagnosed, than I am doing what I need to do.
To learn more about Heather, check out & “like” her new Facebook page dedicated to mesothelioma awareness & support!
You can follow her journey: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherVonStJames?ref=hl