Today is September 26, 2014. Today is also Mesothelioma Awareness Day. I’m sure you’ve heard of Mesothelioma before, but do you actually know what is it is? Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body cavity called mesothelium. The only known cause is exposure to asbestos.
Imagine being given only 15 months to live. You hear it all the time, people only given months to live. What would you do with your time?
Meet Heather, Cameron, and Lily.
In 2005 Heather was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma and given only 15 months to live. Once being diagnosed she set on a journey to find the best treatment available, she was straight up determined that she was going to beat this cancer. Today, after a lifesaving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, she is now an eight year Mesothelioma survivor.
Heather is only one of a few survivors, so what better way than to spread awareness about this terrible rare cancer. That’s exactly what Heather’s husband, Cameron, is doing. Cameron reached out to me a couple weeks ago about their situation and asked if I would help spread the word. What better way to learn about this rare cancer and help them succeed in spreading the word.
I’m a bullet point type of gal. Personally, makes it easier to read, gets straight and to the point. With that being said, here are some facts about asbestos:
· Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is classified as a known human carcinogen.
· On average, 30 million pounds of asbestos are still using used in the United States. Asbestos can be found in many homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings.
· Asbestos was once used in common household items such as toasters, hairdryers, and over 3,000 other consumer products.
· Between the 1930’s and 1970’s asbestos was at its peak production and use.
· In July 1989, the EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos containing products. Just 2 years later, in 1991, this regulation was overturned and as a result only a few asbestos containing products remained banned.
Now that you know about the cause of mesothelioma, let’s dig a little deeper into the topic at hand, Mesothelioma.
· Mesothelioma commonly sits dormant in the body for 20-50 years after initial exposure to asbestos.
· 80% of all mesothelioma cases occur within the lining of the lungs.
· The other 20% occur in the abdominal lining (peritoneal) and heart lining (pericardial).
· Between 2,500 and 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year and they are given 10 months to live.
· Usually patients are diagnosed between ages 50-70, but it’s not uncommon for the younger generation because of second hand exposure.
How is mesothelioma diagnosed? Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because of the symptoms. The symptoms resemble other respiratory conditions such as chest pain, chronic cough, effusions of the chest and abdomen, and the presence of blood in lung fluid. Diagnostic surgeries, such as a biopsy can determine the type of malignant cells that are present in the body. A body imagine scan such as MRI, CT Scan, or PET will determine the extent and location of the cancer.
There is no cure for Mesothelioma due to the fact only about 3,000 people a year are diagnosed, which makes it difficult to run studies to find that cure. Right now the major goal is to reduce the pain for the patient and to prolong their life.
There is treatment for patients, but that will depend on their stage of the cancer, site affected, and their cell type. Treatments involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
As mentioned above, Heather is a 8 year survivor. Today, you’ll find her gardening, volunteering at Lily's school, doing some stand up paddle boarding (I’ve always wanted to do), and enjoying life. Also mentioned above, she is actively spreading awareness so today she will be participating in the Miles for Meso in Alton, IL to raise money and awareness for Mesothelioma. Heather also speaks at the annual ADAO (Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization) conference in Washington D.C. every April. She also still goes for checkups every 6 months to ensure she is still cancer free!!
If you’re interested in reading more about Heather’s story you can visit her blog here, her twitter here, and her Facebook page here.
I’m going to leave you with a paragraph Heather wrote in her latest post which, personally, says a lot “I’ve learned in my last 8 years of this journey, that the people who are in it with you can make all the difference in the world. Having people who know and understand your emotions during your cancer journey is life changing. A whole new world was opened to me and I don’t feel so isolated and alone anymore. I urge you, if you are going through any type of issue, whether it be illness, loss, postpartum -- anything that throws you a curveball in life -- find others who have walked your path; you will not only find help, but friendships that will last a lifetime.”