|Heather & her lovely daughter, Lily|
I was 36 years old.
My baby had been born a little over three months earlier. Life was good. Then,
I heard those dreaded words, “You have cancer.” malignant pleural mesothelioma to be exact: cancer caused primarily by asbestos.
“What? Isn’t asbestos
banned?” I asked repeatedly. “Where could I possibly have been exposed?” People
I told about my diagnosis asked the same questions.
As it turns out, it
hasn’t been banned. And to answer the second question: secondary exposure.
My father worked in
construction. He taped, muddied and sanded drywall. He did not know that the
white dust he brought home with him was filled with millions of deadly
microscopic cancer-causing asbestos fibers.
When I was diagnosed,
the Mayo clinic knew of only one other person my age diagnosed with
mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients were older men who had worked in trades
like plumbing or heating. They were former electricians, mechanics, and military men who were exposed to asbestos on their ships.
Then, wives of the
tradesmen showed up with the disease. It was assumed they were exposed when
they had contact with the asbestos contaminated laundry of their husbands. But,
wait. There were more. Women who worked in buildings, such as schools, that
were laden with asbestos were getting sick with mesothelioma.
My case marked the
beginning of a disturbing trend of young people being diagnosed with this
disease. We are the children who sat in those schools with their crumbling
asbestos filled tiles. We are the children who played in asbestos contaminated
attics filled with vermiculite insulation.
We are the children
who were so excited to see our daddy come home at the end of the day that we
could not wait for him to change his clothes before we jumped into his arms. We
went to feed the rabbits together, and he lovingly gave us his jacket to put on
so we would not mess up our own clothes. That is the daddy who loved his
children and wanted nothing more than to spend time with them after a day of
Now, we are the
children fighting mesothelioma. We are the former children who are just now
beginning our own lives: getting married, having our own children and starting
new jobs. Suddenly, everything comes to a screeching halt. We have
mesothelioma. Our lives now are dedicated to beating this deadly disease.
There is good news.
As a community, we have come together to support each other and to share our
experiences. We cry together when the news is not good, and we celebrate
together when it is.
|I love her bad-ass faux hawk!|
story. People need to be aware of this disease so they can help bring changes.
I want to give those who are newly diagnosed some hope. It feels like the right
thing to do. To learn more about mesothelioma, or to help spread awareness,
please watch this short video: What is Mesothelioma?