Living with Mesothelioma – A Hopeful Story
Mesothelioma is a pretty devastating diagnosis to get. The statistics are grim, with very people ever being cured of this kind of cancer. I got my diagnosis, like many do, later in life. I am over 50 now and living with mesothelioma. Although there is not much chance of being cured, I am fortunate enough to benefit from treatments that help me live my life in spite of the disease, and I get to tell people about my story and make a difference.
My name is Virgil and my story begins way back when I was in high school in West Virginia. Like a lot of kids in my town I wanted to start working and earning, so I took a job in demolition. It was hard and dirty work, but I didn’t mind. I liked the physical nature of the work and I liked making money.
Later I got into cars and trained to work as a mechanic. I had some thankless jobs initially, like tearing out the hood liners in older cars and replacing them with new ones. I learned to be a mechanic, though, and eventually got to do more skilled jobs. I worked as a mechanic for several years and loved my work.
What I never realized in doing these jobs was that I was being exposed to asbestos. This is a mineral that just happened to have been used for decades in buildings, like the ones I tore down at my demolition job, and in cars, which I worked on for years. Asbestos was used so heavily before studies proved how harmful it could be.
Asbestos was used in all kinds of building materials, like insulation, furnaces, ducts, roofing, siding, drywall compound, and more. It was also used in cars, especially in hood liners, clutches, and breaks. Asbestos is still used in a lot of applications today, but regulations limit it and protect people who work around it.
Asbestos was so popular because it is great at insulating against heat and fire and adding lightweight strength to materials. Unfortunately, it is made up of tiny little fibers that easily become airborne and can be inhaled. All that time I spent tearing down old buildings, ripping into hood liners, and taking apart brakes and clutches, I was being exposed to these fibers. They get into the lungs and other tissues, cause damage, and in some people cause serious illness.
Mesothelioma has a long latency period and I didn’t get my diagnosis until it had been developing in my body for years. I have pleural mesothelioma and it makes breathing more difficult and painful and causes a chronic cough. It is a progressive type of cancer and will only get worse.
The good news is that I got a hold of some great resources to help people like me. Through legal and medical experts I was able to get care at the National Cancer Institute. Chemotherapy is shrinking my tumors, slowing the progression of the disease, and helping me feel better. I feel positive about it these days and am thankful for the amazing treatments I am able to get through such kind and caring medical professionals.
What makes me especially hopeful in what is otherwise a pretty dismal time is that I have been given the opportunity to share my story with others. I didn’t know about asbestos or its risks. By telling people about what happened to me, I can help protect them and encourage them to take steps to make sure they are safe at work and at home from asbestos. If only one person reads my story and avoids being exposed to asbestos, I feel a great sense of hope.
Guest post by Virgil Anderson
Guest post by Virgil Anderson