Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Sneaky Killer

Every day, throughout the world, little girls and boys great their fathers at the end of the workday by jumping up on them for big hugs, usually before they've even changed clothes, and this has gone on for generations.  Imagine being a father who realizes that that experience is what many, many years later resulted in terminal illness for his kids, as well as himself. Believe it or not, this is a common way that 2500 to 3000 people find out they have mesothelioma, a deadly, preventable form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
What I recently learned about mesothelioma is that it can take 20 to 50 years for it to reveal itself. Consequently, most people who receive the diagnosis are middle aged. Because the illness critically impacts the tissues surrounding the lungs, heart, at the point of diagnosis, most people don’t live more than 15 months and are given just 10 months to live. I can only imagine.

It was 1964 when the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos was made. Women are just as likely as men to get mesothelioma because of their exposure from their fathers or spouses, usually.Of course, you can also get mesothelioma from first-hand exposure. We have a friend whose job was removing asbestos. He wore a special suit to do it, and he got paid a lot of money, and now I know why; he was putting his health at risk.

Although mesothelioma affects a relatively small number of people, it can have devastating effects. Part of the problem is that it spreads quickly and may not be noticed early. Right now, treatment focuses mainly on quality of life and keeping pain and suffering under control but it can also include traditional cancer treatments such as chemo, radiation, and surgery. In spite of the grim prognosis, death is not certain. 

“With hope, the odds don’t matter.” says eight-year mesothelioma survivor, Heather. She believes that having strong support has been critically important to her healing.  Grateful, she’s dedicated her life to supporting others with mesothelioma. Contact from Heather's husband is what inspired me to write this post.

Today, asbestos is a banned material in new construction and products. However, it’s still found in materials and structures made long ago.  In spite of the clear connection between asbestos and mesothelioma, though, I was surprised to learn that asbestos is not banned in America.  Since November is National Lung Health Month, I thought this would be worth sharing. To learn more about the use and risks of asbestos, click here.  

For more information, visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog.

Know any college students whose lives have been touched by cancer? This $4000 scholarship has two deadlines, December 1st and March 31st.

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