My fear, as a parent, is one of those things.
One of my biggest fears as a parent is having Michael grow up without us as parents. I guess it's because I've experienced my Dad actually passing away in front of me (fatal heart attack.) And this past year, my Mother-in-law (breast cancer.)
And while I don't mention it much here and still find difficulty in expressing my feelings about it. In dealing with it.
I always tell myself, "If I could raise more awareness of both diabetes and breast cancer I would..." or "If I could do more, then I would..."
But the hurt of losing them always takes over and I fail in what is essentially the only thing I can do- to share my story.
Of course, that's where Heather came into play.
Heather is a six year mesothelioma survivor. A wife. And a mother.
I wanted to help another reader, another parent who reached out to me, tell her story. To raise awareness. This was my chance. Because I know that deep in my heart, this is what she wants. To not be known as just a patient. But a survivor. And what her daughter and husband want too. Because she isn't fearful.
Here's Heather's story.
My Tale of MesotheliomaPlease visit Heather's blog here.
There are some words that just stop you dead in your tracks, and when I heard
them, I could only reflect on how unfair it was. I had just had my child 3 ½ months
ago, and suddenly I heard the fateful words, “you have cancer.” I was diagnosed
with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which resulted from asbestos exposure, and
my world fell apart.
I didn’t know anything about the cancer and the substance, so I started to learn.
Even as I was figuring things out, people asked me over and over again where I had
been exposed. First, asbestos is actually not outlawed, and secondly, I had likely
picked it up from my construction worker father. Every day, he encountered dust
filled with asbestos fibers, and every day, he brought it home in his clothing, his car
and who knows how many other places! That innocent white dust that coated his
body was now taking a toll on my life!
Most people who are diagnosed with this type of cancer are older males who have
spent their lives working in the trades. Mechanics, electricians, plumbers and HVAC
workers are all prone to this cancer, as are military men. I was part of the second
wave of people with this, people who were given this cancer through secondary
exposure. Mothers who washed their husbands clothes, school secretaries in unsafe
sites, there were many of us who had contracted this disease. At the age of 36, I
was a fairly rare case, but the truth was that my case was only the beginning. Soon,
doctors started realizing that they were seeing plenty of people with this deadly,
deadly illness, and their patients were getting younger and younger.
Think of all the kids who leap into their daddies’ arms at night, or that kid who puts
on her dad’s jacket to go out and take care of her rabbits because she doesn’t want
to bother with her own coat. If you were a child who hung out with a father who spent
all day putting in insulation, you were at risk. These were the stories that I heard
over and over again, and I realized how common they were. I was seeing men and
women in their twenties and their thirties, people who were just starting out their
lives. Suddenly, everything comes crashing down around their ears, and they have
to fight a deadly disease! Fortunately, we are learning more about this disease every
day, and more and more people are surviving it. People of all ages have a fighting
chance, and it is thanks to modern science.
The words “you have cancer,” devastated me, but I am still fighting. I have found that
I do not need to fight alone, and that there is nothing more valuable than finding a
community that will support you, that will cry with you when times get hard and who
will help you celebrate when times go right! I also love being there for others who are
diagnosed and showing them that there is always hope.
The biggest thing I can do is exist and be in the public eye. I want my story out there,
and I want it to help others!
I know I'll share my story one day. But until then, I hope to help Heather with hers.