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What is Mesothelioma, anyway?

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Mesothelioma Causes

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Have you ever found yourself looking at the television and asking, “Just what is mesothelioma, anyway?” I know I have. I asked a few folks over the past couple of days if they knew anything about mesothelioma. I got this composite answer: “Nothing outside the lawsuit ads about it.”

And that’s the problem. All I knew was that it was a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. And that some legal firms are apparently handling lawsuits over it.

Then I heard from a man named Cameron von St. James. Like me, Cam is a caregiver. His wife, Heather, is a survivor of mesothelioma, and they want to share their story with 300 people. Hopefully, this story will reach a lot more.

Cameron, Lily and Heather von St. James. Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer three months after her daughter Lily was born. Heather was given 15 months to live. That was eight years ago.

Cameron, Lily and Heather von St. James. Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer three months after her daughter Lily was born. Heather was given 15 months to live. That was eight years ago.

When I read Cam’s story about how he had to suddenly become a caregiver when Heather was diagnosed with cancer, I was in tears. It really is a tough job, having to completely turn your life around when something totally unexpected happens.

So here’s what Mesothelioma is: it is a cancer that spreads in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. It is caused strictly by exposure to asbestos. When someone breathes in asbestos fibers, that person is put at great risk. Graphics help me out, so here’s one for you that shows how the lungs are affected.

Mesothelioma Cancer

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Only about 2000-3000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, which is probably why so few of us even know what it is. Also, laws were passed to pretty much eradicate asbestos, so this disease is mainly found in men over 60 who worked in male-dominated industries in which asbestos exposure was common. But asbestos still has not been banned, and as long as there are new diagnoses each year, we need to be aware of this debilitating disease.

Heather von St. James, mesothelioma survivor.

Heather von St. James, mesothelioma survivor.

Many women and children have been diagnosed with mesothelioma because of second-hand asbestos exposure. For instance, if you are doing the laundry and handle an article of clothing that has traces of asbestos on it, you are placing yourself at risk. There is no “safe” amount of asbestos exposure. You can still find asbestos in the insulation in old houses; I went to a high school where the science department had tables made of asbestos, and despite the warnings from teachers, kids still carved into those tables.

If I could tell you all the ways you could develop mesothelioma, I wouldn’t be able to get any more work done. But the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance has some excellent information, as well as support.

Have you been affected by mesothelioma? Is there anything you learned about it that you didn’t previously know?

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