Friday, 31 August 2012

Guest Blog By Heather

I have recently been contacted by Heather a truly inspiring woman. Like me she wants to share how life has changed. She hasn't got Type 1 Diabetes but she has "survived cancer".  Reading her blog I read a statement that really hit home. Someone asked Heather:
 “How long until things get back to normal?” My answer is never! It is the NEW normal. Everything you knew, every breath, every heartbeat, every day you wake up—it’s the new, different normal. It’s a world coloured by a cancer diagnosis”.
The above statement describes how life is living with Type 1 Diabetes!
This is written by Heather


It Can't Be Cancer

"It can't be cancer."  That was one of the first things that entered my mind when my doctor told me my diagnosis.   I stared at him with a mixture of terror and disbelief.  After all, I was a young woman and a new mother with a 3 ½ month old baby.  Cancer was not something that was supposed to happen to me.  Unfortunately, I did have cancer, and I did not just have any cancer.  I was suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma, a disease caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos.  

When I tell people about my cancer, their first response is confusion because most people believe that asbestos is banned.  It is not.  They also want to know how on earth I was ever exposed to asbestos in the first place.  The answer is that I was exposed when I was a child through contact with my father's work clothes.  He worked with drywall on construction sites, and the white dust that always coated his clothes and the upholstery in his car held a dangerous secret.  It was full of microscopic fibers of asbestos.  So while I never came into contact with the source of the asbestos, I was still exposed to the material.  This is what doctors call secondary exposure.

I was diagnosed with mesothelioma when I was only 36 years old.  At the time, my doctors at the Mayo Clinic were only familiar with one other case of this type of cancer in such a young person.  Mesothelioma is much more likely to occur in older people, especially older men.  When mesothelioma first became common, the patients were almost always middle-aged or older men with a history of working either in construction or aboard ships.   Soon after these first cases appeared, doctors also started seeing this cancer among women.  These women were usually secretaries who worked in schools with asbestos tiles or the wives of construction workers.  These wives were exposed when they handled and laundered their husbands' asbestos covered clothing.  

My diagnosis was one of those that marked the advent of a new generation of mesothelioma sufferers, the children.  We are members of the generation who sat in classrooms under crumbling asbestos tiles or played in attics with exposed vermiculate insulation that contained asbestos fibers.  We are the children who ran to greet our fathers when they were covered with dust from work and who borrowed their dust covered jackets to stay warm when we did our chores.  

The more involved I become with other mesothelioma patients, the more young people I meet.  Like me, they are just beginning their careers.  Many have new marriages and new babies.  They are young men and women in their 20's and 30's, and they have had to put aside their other aspirations in order to concentrate on battling mesothelioma.  Fortunately for all of us, there is hope.  There have been great advances in the treatment of mesothelioma, and scientists are making new discoveries every day.  Greater numbers of mesothelioma patients of all ages are surviving than ever before.

Why do I share this painful story?  I do so because I want people to understand the many faces of mesothelioma.  I want to spread awareness of this disease, because I want to effect change.  Until people understand mesothelioma and those of us who suffer from it, we cannot make progress toward better treatments.  I also want to spread the hope that I have found in the mesothelioma community to those who are struggling with a new and devastating diagnosis.  If my words help someone to break out of the cycle of hopelessness and fear that so often afflicts those newly diagnosed with this disease, my time has been well spent.


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