Mesothelioma, what the hell is that? I read once there are over 200 cancers so when I heard this I know I was going to be on the cancer track. Damn that track sucks!. The technical answer is mesothelioma in it’s most common form is the cancerous type, usually affecting the lungs. It can show signs like a cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that can be found in the lungs, lining of the abdomen or heart that's caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. It is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos because it does not show up until 25-30 years later the cancer is more likely to spread cause it difficult to treat. Treatment is typical and may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But what about the emotional aspect? We all know that cancer is not just a scientific problem that the mind and body are greatly affected. To understand I will tell you about a friend Heather Von St. James.
Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma early in her life from being exposed by wearing her father's work coat. Yes it can happen as simply as that. Asbestos comes in the form of fibers that become dangerous when released into the air. This happens when the asbestos itself grows old or becomes disturbed. When receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, a patient's prognosis is most likely going to be poor. Heather was given just 15 months to live and this was just 3 1/2 months after giving birth to our daughter Lily. I know so many that get a cancer DX after having a baby. I can not imagine the emotions they go through. Heather was only 36 and the news of this was difficult to say the least. Heather underwent extensive thoracic surgery, known as extrapleural pneumonectomy, with adjuvant intra-operative heated chemotherapy. She was declared NED (no evidence of disease) later that year. Her recovery from the disease is unique because malignant mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer usually seen in older patients. When treated the average life expectancy is 6-9 months, Heather is a rarity for sure.
Heather is a complete badass advocate because she has overcome so much with this cancer she is the voice many need to hear. Heather advocacy is to get asbestos banned and removed from buildings to eliminate others going through what she has. In her recent blog she started it by stating “I learned early on in my cancer treatment what a cruel, unfair thing cancer can be. It doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, or how much money you do or don’t have. Cancer has one purpose, to destroy the host, no matter who that host is – and many times, it succeeds.” This statement was so true to me I felt that everyone must know Heather’s story. There is so much to cancer that people who have not been there do not understand and Heather does an amazing job of stating that, as I always say “cancer is cancer”. No matter what type you have we need to share each other’s story and help stop this unforgiving disease.
About 3,000 people are DX with mesothelioma each year and 2,500 deaths every year-that is horrible odds! I think we need to start by looking at the way we are exposed to asbestos. Military, construction workers, commercial and second hand exposure are all ways we can be exposed. Read more and know if you are at risk. If asbestos is still not banned in the US that means our work, home and where we shop is still affected. We also need to find out how we can ban and remove it from our lives. There is legal help out there too. Know your rights!
On September 26th Heather is “Dying to be Heard”. Join Heather and me in spreading the word because no one should get a prognosis of 10 months to live.