Mesothelioma Cancer In My Thirties? TV, books and movies have taught us to fear cancer, and when I heard my diagnosis, it was like my life just stopped. Things were going so well with my 3 month-old babies, and when I was told that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, my first feeling was panic and then confusion.
After all, wasn’t asbestos some kind of banned material? That’s what I thought, and when people heard, they all wanted to know how I had been exposed. First, I realized that asbestos is not in fact banned, and second, I realized that I had contracted my cancer through second hand exposure. Asbestos is common on work sites and my father brought it home in his clothing. That white dust in his clothes, car and jacket was full of asbestos fibers, which had caused my condition.
I was only 36 when I was diagnosed; the Mayo Clinic at that time had only heard of one other case where the person diagnosed with mesothelioma was so young! Most people who suffer from mesothelioma tend to be older men who work in plumbing, construction or heating; men in the military are also prime candidates. Soon, though, we started seeing more cases like mine, of women married to these men, or related to them, or simply working in the same environment. These women would handle their husband’s clothes or similarly work in a school that had plenty of asbestos in it. It’s a sad thing, but we’re seeing the second generation of mesothelioma sufferers. I just happened to be the first, and more and more are getting diagnosed every year. The ones that broke my heart were the children, the children who went to school and were then exposed. These schools had asbestos tiles and asbestos in the attics where children were allowed to play. Children would run to their fathers and hug them, heedless of the white dust that covered their bodies, or put on their daddy’s jacket to go outside for just a second. These kids would play so innocently with their fathers, never recognizing what was going on.
When I get involved with the mesothelioma support community, I was at first the youngest. Now I’m seeing more young patients, men and women in their twenties and thirties. They are just starting their lives, their families and their careers, but suddenly they have been stopped dead in their tracks, just as I was.
Today, however, there is more information. More and more people of all ages are surviving this deadly disease, and with that increased rate of survival comes hope.
Getting a cancer diagnosis is terrifying, but I, and many of the people I have met hold our hope up high and proud. We have come together as a community to share, to support and simply to be ourselves. I share my story to bring about awareness, to make sure that other people know that there is hope, and to make sure that others know that they are not alone. Here is a short video explaining exactly what mesothelioma cancer is!