Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Post: Fear, Mesothelioma and Coping

“You have cancer…”

These three words will create fear in the strongest person. Unfortunately for me, I heard these words at a time in my life when I thought things should have been at their best. Before I got the news, I had a baby three and one-half months prior. During the happiest time of my life, I had been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma cancer, which was a result of asbestos exposure.
After my diagnosis, I was most often asked, “Isn’t asbestos banned?” or “Where were you exposed?” The answer to the first question was, “No. Asbestos was not banned.”  The second question is, “I was exposed through my father’s clothing.” After work, asbestos was found on his clothes, in his car and on his jacket. He was exposed through sanding, drywall taping and mudding.
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 36 is rare. Most mesothelioma patients are older and male. These people often work in trades such as plumbing, HVAC repair, automotive and the military.

Women were also affected by mesothelioma. They were exposed when they did their husbands’ laundry. The shook the dust from the clothes and were exposed when they shook the dust from the clothes. Women were also exposed as secretaries working in schools.
Young people in the next generation were affected by mesothelioma. I felt that I was the beginning of an alarming trend of young people being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The question is, “How were so many young people exposed?"
Children were exposed when they would hug their fathers. They were also exposed when they put on their fathers’ dusty jackets to prevent their jackets from getting dirty while feeding the rabbits. Children were even exposed just by hanging out with their dads after they had a long day installing insulation around pipes.
I have gotten involved in the mesothelioma community, and I am getting to know many young patients in their late twenties and early thirties. These newly diagnosed young men and women had just started their lives with new babies, marriages and new jobs. They had to put their normal lives on hold and concentrate on mesothelioma.
When you hear that you have cancer, the news is devastating. I continued to remain hopeful as many people do. I gathered with my community to share experiences, that are supportive and to cry when things are not working. Mesothelioma support groups also celebrate victories together.

Why do I continue to share my story and encourage others? I want to create awareness within the community. Without awareness, change will not occur. By sharing my story with someone who is recently diagnosed with mesothelioma or someone who is fearful because of the mesothelioma diagnosis, I feel like I am doing what is right for the community. 

Heather Von St James is a mesothelioma survivor and a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her story is one of hope and inspiration and she hopes to spread her message to anyone who may be going through similar situations to her own. Check out Heather’s story on the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.

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