Friday, October 5, 2012

Meet Heather

Heather & her lovely daughter, Lily

Mesothelioma: the second generation

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 installing insulation.

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!
I have to tell my 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?

Are you bawling like I was? I am blown away by Heather's strength and resilience and felt that it was neccessary to share her story. Cancer could happen to anyone, under any circumstance, so please stay on top of your health, talk to your physician, and get tested. I know I have taken being healthy for granted in the past but after such a struggle to get preggers, I am much more aware now. I got blood tests done last month because I felt faint at Olivia's preschool orientation. Turns out I'm okay, but I do have a slight iron deficiency so I've upped my vitamin intake. I'd like to thank Heather for sharing her story with us and I pray she stays healthy and continues to make us all aware of Mesothelioma. Heather's blog.

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