Sunday, October 14, 2012

Raising Awareness

I was contacted by {what I thought was} a stranger. . . but she turned out to be a wife, a mother, a fighter. She is a cancer survivor.

This is her story:

I had cancer. I was the mother of a 3 1/2 month old baby and I was told I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Those words are able to cripple you with fear. I was exposed to asbestos and now I was not sure if I would live.  

There is a prevailing idea that asbestos was banned. It was not. When I tell people that I got mesothelioma cancer from asbestos, they want to know where I was exposed. Well, my father worked in construction and was exposed regularly. The asbestos powder got on his clothes and he brought it home in the car and on his clothes.  

When I was diagnosed, I was only 36 years old. The Mayo Clinic had only one other reported case of a person having mesothelioma that young. The majority of cases were men who had worked in trades with asbestos. Those trades were pretty much everything. Plumbing, shipbuilding, mechanics, construction and heating are just some of the jobs that exposed men to asbestos. There were jobs that exposed women too. There were school secretaries, teachers and wives who did their husbands' laundry. All of these people were at risk of getting the disease I now had. 

After the husbands and wives, there were people like me. I was the beginning of a slew of sufferers who were exposed as children. These children went to the same schools where women were being exposed. They put their faces near their fathers' clothing when they hugged them, thus breathing in the powder. They crawled in attics with asbestos contaminated insulation, they wore their daddies' jackets and they rode in cars that their parent’s rode to and from work in.  

I have become involved in the community of mesothelioma victims. As I get more involved, I meet more young people and get to know them. They are in their early 30s and some even in their late 20s. They have barely begun their adult lives. They have new careers, perhaps college, marriages and children. Once they are diagnosed, they have to drop everything else and focus on getting better. They are too sick to do anything else. Thankfully, modern medicine is making it so more of these young adults and even older sufferers are surviving mesothelioma.  

Getting a cancer diagnosis changes your life, but I have hope and many of my peers in the mesothelioma community do as well. We have each other to share experiences with, struggle with and celebrate with. I share my story so that people will know about us. If no one knows about this disease, how will anything change? I would also like to reach those who are struggling with mesothelioma and give them hope.

I feel honored to help give her a voice in spreading the word. Thank you, Heather. YOU ROCK!!

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