I was approached about a month ago by the Heather, author of this post, with a simple plea:Help me share my story.
I sat on the idea for a day or two, wondering if my blog was the right place for this story but I came to realise that the right place for this story is anywhere that someone might see it. I am honoured to help her share her story. For more information on Mesothelioma, or to read more of Heather’s story, check out www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather
Coming to Grips With Mesothelioma
How could I have cancer? The doctor’s announcement made the bottom drop out of my stomach, and I just couldn’t understand it. I had been feeling tired, but then I had just had a baby less than four months ago. I had mesothelioma cancer, which is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. This horrible news hit me hard, and more, it confused me.
Wasn’t asbestos that stuff that’s been banned? Plenty of people ask me that question, and they follow it up with asking when I was exposed. First, no, asbestos is not banned, and second, I seem to have been exposed through my father. My father dealt with asbestos throughout his career in construction, and with all of that drywall installation, mudding and sanding, he was covered with asbestos dust. Those nasty white fibers were all over his clothing, his car and his work clothes, and it was those fibers that would make me so sick as an adult.
I was one of the youngest cases of mesothelioma cancer that the doctors had ever seen at the time. Most people who contract this cancer are older men who work in the trades. Some military men get it, as do mechanics, electricians and plumbers. After my diagnosis, there came a wave of people who got it the way I did. Suddenly children and wives of men like this were being diagnosed with this disease in large numbers.
Now that there is more visibility, we are seeing more mesothelioma sufferers who are my age. More and more young people are turning up. Their stories are all similar, whether they were young girls who put on their dad’s jackets to go out or they simply wanted hugs when their dads came home for a long day of work. As I got more involved in the mesothelioma community, and as I learned more about my condition, I wanted to know more about the people who were getting diagnosed. I started seeing men and women in their twenties and their thirties. We were just starting our lives, and all of a sudden, things were brought to a real halt. We’re lucky we are living in the time period that we are; we are seeing so many more terrific advances that are helping people survive and thrive in the face of this terrible disease.
The fateful words, “you have cancer” still ring in my ears sometimes, but I have not given up hope. I am surrounded by people with mesothelioma who are resolved to fight, both on their own and as a community. We want to share and we want to support each other. We want to work, and to celebrate the joys and to mourn the setbacks.
The reason why I am so invested in mesothelioma advocacy is simply to raise awareness. I want my story to offer hope to other people and to help them move forward with the life that they want. It is scary, but we can always move forward with hope instead of fear.