I was approached by a blogger last week, asking if they could do a guest post on "The New Normal". I was very flattered, after all, I only have about 100 followers, I am not great PR :-) This woman, Heather, also apologized because the topic she wanted to discuss was not necessarily relevant to my autism blog. Then she told me what her cause was- cancer (specifically mesothelioma). Well, you came to the right place! As an oncology nurse and the family member of several cancer survivors, I will NEVER say no to such a worthy cause! This woman is amazing and very brave. Without further ado....I immediately began asking the doctor questions about my diagnosis, and I found out that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. The doctor went on to explain that this mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. Every time I told this to someone, they say, "I thought asbestos was banned." The truth is, it’s not. After my friends found out about the asbestos exposure, they wanted to know how I was exposed. It turns out that the asbestos was carried in to my childhood home every day on my father's work clothes. My hardworking dad spent many hours each day as a construction worker. He specialized in drywall cutting and sanding, and asbestos was present in that drywall. When I hugged him after work every day, I never could have imagined that I was pressing my face up against a very dangerous substance.
My face is not the face of the typical mesothelioma patient. Most patients are older males who have worked as tradesmen or laborers. The staff members at the Mayo Clinic said that they had only seen one other person as young as me who was suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma.
However, the face of mesothelioma is changing. It is no longer just older males who are suffering. More and more women and young adults are receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. Many people ask me why this is happening, and it is actually easy to explain. Who was washing each man's clothes after he came home from work each day? Who was constantly exposed to asbestos by clothing that was brought into their home? The answer to these questions is that it was the wives and children of the tradesmen.
You might think that my story is depressing, but there is hope behind all of this somber news. I have made many wonderful connections within the mesothelioma community. We share the common ground of a scary diagnosis, so we come together to support each other and hold on to hope.
I share my story as often as possible to bring awareness of mesothelioma to those who know little to nothing about the disease. I will continue to advocate for myself and others who had to hear the words "You have cancer." Together, we are determined to win the battle and spread hope to others.