The Doctor Tells You That You Have Cancer
Being told you have cancer is enough to strike fear into your very soul. These life-changing words were told to me when I thought that my whole life was in front of me. Everything was going perfectly before my doctor told me these words. A had a baby just three and a half months before getting my diagnoses. Now I had cancer? Well, precisely, I had malignant Pleural Mesothelioma – a cancer that is caused primarily by asbestos exposure.
There are two questions I hear most often. One, isn’t asbestos banned? Two, where did the exposure happen? The answer to the first one is no, it’s not banned. It’s illegal to use in construction now, but it’s still present. The answer to the second one is through secondary exposure. My dad was in construction, so he was bringing home dust on his clothes and on his jacket that contained the asbestos. The white powder that followed him contained deadly microscopic fibers.
The Mayo Clinic had only heard of one other case before mine of someone being diagnosed with mesothelioma so young. I was 36 when I received my diagnosis. Typically, mesothelioma patients are older, male and worked in the trades. This could have been in the military on ships or as a plumber, electrician, mechanic or other trade. This was the first round of patients.
The second round of patients were the women – the wives of those who were being diagnosed. These women dealt with the laundry. They would shake out their husband’s clothes, put them in the washer and even get into their work trucks. The white powder contained asbestos, but no one knew the dangers like they do today. Secretaries were also being diagnosed because of being in a school that was filled with asbestos.
The third round was the trend that I was a part of – the trend that was just beginning. Young people were being diagnosed with this deadly cancer because of being exposed to it from their fathers or because of their school. Daddy’s kids who would run into his arms after a long day or working or kids that liked to get dressed up in daddy’s jacket or coveralls to play dress-up were becoming exposed. Children who played at school where ceiling tiles were crumbling were becoming exposed. Even the kids playing in the attic where vermiculite insulation containing asbestos were becoming exposed to the dangers. Asbestos is in homes and schools all across America.
I have been involved with the mesothelioma community for a long time now. The more patients I get to know, the younger they are. These are men and women in the prime of their lives. Those in their late 20s and early 30s are receiving the diagnosis of the same mesothelioma cancer that I was diagnosed with. These are people just getting married, having kids and starting careers. All of this is put on hold as they must turn all of their energy to battling mesothelioma.
There is some good news at this point. There are medical advancements in treatment options for this disease. It’s possible to receive the diagnosis and go on to lead a very long and healthy life. People of all ages are surviving more today than ever before. The survival rate increases with each passing year.
You may think that hearing the doctor’s diagnosis of cancer is devastating. And you’re right, it is. But I have continued to hold onto hope and many others need to do the same. Those who have mesothelioma need to have hope above anything else. We have formed a community that allows us to share our experiences and support each other through thick and thin. We sometimes need to cry when something isn’t working and we want to share our victories with others when things do work out.
I have continued to share my story over and over. Why do I do it? To bring awareness to the masses. Nothing will ever change unless people become aware of the situation. My story can hopefully offer someone newly diagnosed the glimmer of hope that things can get better. My story may even help someone to stop living in fear of the mesothelioma diagnosis.
If my story is able to help a single person, I’m doing something right.
To learn more about Heather, check out & “like” her new Facebook page dedicated to mesothelioma awareness & support! You can follow her journey: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherVonStJames?ref=hl
I was so glad to be able to have Heather guest post. I wish that I could say it was my own idea, but actually, Heather contacted me and through correspondence and her suggestion, we worked out her guest posting here at Ashley’s Devotions. I’m so glad that she contacted me. I would love it if everyone could share Heather’s story as well as follow her on Facebook. Support and prayers are the best and easiest things that we can do.
Thanks, everyone! Have a great Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by, Heather!