++My new friend Heather asked me about sharing her story here on the blog, and I knew I wanted to help her get this out to as many people as I could so that we can be aware that there are problems that need to be looked at and also courage that can be gained from tragic situations. I look at people like Heather and I am in awe of their positive outlook! I hope you were inspired like I was by this story--There really are modern day miracles! Feel free to share.
“You have cancer.”
These are the three words can really cut deep and affect you at your core. When I heard these words, it was a time when I thought life should have been at its best. I had just had a baby three and one-half months prior to the diagnosis. Instead of enjoying the moment, I was being told that I had cancer. Specifically, I had malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer. This cancer was caused primarily by asbestos exposure.
When I tell people I have asbestos-related cancer, they immediately ask, “Wait a minute, isn’t that banned?” The second question they ask is, “Where were you exposed?” The answer to the first question is an unfortunate, “No. Asbestos is not banned.” The answer to the second question is equally as unfortunate: "I was exposed by my father through his work clothes."
He worked in construction. While working in construction, my father was involved in sanding, mudding and drywall taping. The dust on his clothes, his jacket and in his car seemed innocent, but it was asbestos.
My diagnosis of mesothelioma at the age of 36 was rare. I had a disease that tends to affect older males who worked in trade industries. Men who typically work as plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians, mechanics and military personnel were most likely to be affected by this disease. Later, the wives of these men started getting sick with mesothelioma too.
The wives were exposed through their husband’s laundry while they were shaking the clothes out before putting them in the laundry. The women were also exposed when they worked as secretaries in schools filled with asbestos.
Now, the next generation of mesothelioma sufferers is being diagnosed. I felt like I was the beginning of an alarming trend. After I was diagnosed, more young people were also diagnosed with mesothelioma. So, how were so many young people exposed to asbestos?
Children were exposed when they would hug their dads after they had been working with the material all day. They were exposed when they put on their dad’s jacket to go feed the rabbits because they didn’t want their jackets to get dirty. That was my exact situation, but there are many other very similar to it.
The more I got involved in the mesothelioma community, the more young people I met with mesothelioma who were in their late twenties and early thirties. These young men and women who were diagnosed had just started new marriages, had new babies and had started new jobs. Their lives ceased, as they knew it, ceased when they were diagnosed.
The good news is that there have been advances made in the treatment of this disease.
People of all ages are surviving.
Hearing that you have cancer is life changing. I try to hang on to hope despite the despair I feel. Members of the mesothelioma community bond to share experiences and support each other. We may cry together or celebrate our victories together.
Why do I continue sharing my story? I share to bring awareness because without awareness change is not possible. I share my story to people who are newly diagnosed to help someone who may be living in fear. If I do this, I feel that I am doing the right thing.