Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Young and Living with Mesothelioma

While we were on our short blogging hiatus, we were contacted by Heather, she was diagnosed with Mesothelioma when her daughter was just 3 1/2 months old. We're excited to share this guest post with you and help bring awareness to this type of cancer. Below is a bio Heather sent us, along with her post. You can follow her blog here.

I am 43 and a mother to a quirky little 7 year old, Lily. She is my only child, and my whole world. When Lily was just 3 1/2 months old, I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma; a type of cancer that kills 90-95% of those who have it. As I’m sure you can imagine, the first thing that came to mind when I was diagnosed was my baby girl and how I wasn’t going to be able to watch her grow up.

After intense treatment and recovery, I’m still here 6 1/2 years later and cancer free! My journey with cancer was a terrifying one and I'd like to turn my pain into purpose and become someone that other people can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in situations like my own.

Young and Living with Mesothelioma

I had always considered myself to be a fearless person.  However, when the doctor told me that I had cancer, I was full of fear.  I was not sure if I was scared because of how quickly my joy of having my baby 3 ½ months sooner had gone away so quickly, or if I was scared because the doctor told me that I had pleural mesothelioma cancer, a cancer that is related to asbestos exposure.

People are dumbfounded when I tell them about my cancer diagnosis and its direct link to asbestos exposure.  They cannot come to grips with the fact that asbestos is not banned and that I was exposed to asbestos.  In fact, I was exposed to asbestos quite often through my father.  Because of my father’s job, he was exposed to asbestos every day. He worked with drywall taping, mudding, and sanding; all of these materials had asbestos in them.  Therefore, each night when he came home from work, he would bring the asbestos into the house.

The reason my mesothelioma diagnosis differs from the previous people diagnosed is because I was so young.  I was only 36 years old, and I have never worked in trades that were linked to asbestos exposure.  These trades included plumbing, heating, and mechanical work.  Sadly, the wives who washed the clothes of their husbands who worked in these trades were also diagnosed.  These wives would shake the clothes before washing them, and the asbestos would fly into the air they were breathing.

Today, more mesothelioma patients are in their late 20’s and early 30’s.  They were used to their fathers coming home from work with asbestos covered clothes.  They did not know or understand asbestos, so they would hug their fathers, or put on their fathers’ clothes, or just stay around their fathers while they completed house repairs.  All of this exposure to their fathers and his clothes also exposed them to asbestos.  Today’s generation of mesothelioma patients are just embarking on new adventures that have to stop because of the mesothelioma diagnosis.  There is a hope for more survival because of treatment advances.

When the doctors informed me that I had cancer it was devastating. However, I am able to hold onto hope. The mesothelioma community is a strong community.  It is a community that allows all mesothelioma patients to converse with one another about their experiences, including supporting one another, crying with one another, and celebrating with one another.

Some people have questioned why I choose to do what I do.  Others have questioned why I choose to share my story.  I respond by telling these people that I want to bring awareness to mesothelioma.  I want to have hope that awareness will lead to change.  If what I do and the story I share allow someone more hope as he or she battles this disease, then I know I am doing the right thing.

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