I have met so many wonderful people through this blog. During the past year or two, I have corresponded through email with several other cancer survivors and new mommies. I feel so blessed to have met these people online, since they are from all over the country and world. A few weeks ago, I actually got to experience the excitement of meeting a blog reader (and fellow breast cancer survivor) in real life!
During our last trip to Florida, I met J, her two adorable children, and their two dogs. Our stories are very similar so we had plenty to talk about, just as if we were old friends. It felt comfortable and almost therapeutic to spend time with somebody who really understands what it feels like to go through chemo, double mastectomy surgeries, and reconstruction, all while being a young mother and wanting to be there for your babies.
We had such a fun visit, playing on their swings and slide, exploring the sandbox, and chasing the dogs around their huge yard. Ryan is going through a “non-sharing" stage these days, but J’s kids were so sweet and welcoming by letting him play with all of their toys. Thanks so much for having us over, J! We will definitely have to get together again sometime!
I also recently received an email from Heather, a survivor of mesothelioma cancer and mommy to a beautiful 7-year-old named Lily. Heather’s goal is to spread awareness for this type of cancer, which is caused by asbestos exposure. She is strong, funny, and super-optimistic, and she asked to write a guest post for my blog. Be sure to check her out and read the rest of her inspiring story at her blog.
Heather’s Story ~ How Mesothelioma Affects People of All Ages
“You have cancer…” Those are the three words you hope to never hear in your lifetime. The words evoke fear and shatter dreams at a time when you most think you’re invincible. For me, I had a baby three and a half months before prior to being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Now, I have pleural mesothelioma. This cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos.
When I tell them, most people think, “Isn’t asbestos banned? Where were you exposed?” Unfortunately, asbestos is not banned. I came into contact with asbestos when I came into contact with my father’s work clothes. He worked in construction, and he came into contact with asbestos through drywall taping, sanding and mudding. The dust contained asbestos. When he came home from work, it was on his clothes, his jacket and in his car. The dust seemed innocent but contained microscopic asbestos fibers.
It was a rare occurrence that I was diagnosed at the early age of 36. In general, mesothelioma affects older males who work in plumbing, heating, the military or as mechanics or electricians. Wives of the military began getting sick as a result or doing their husband’s laundry. The clothing was full or asbestos, and women would shake the clothes before putting them in the washer. Women who worked as secretaries in schools were also exposed to asbestos.
Because of the exposure, the next generation of mesothelioma patients is emerging. As more young people are diagnosed with this cancer, it is the beginning of an alarming trend. The more I am involved with the mesothelioma community, the more young patients I meet. These men and women are in their late twenties and early thirties, and they are just starting their marriages, new jobs and are having babies. Their lives have been interrupted to concentrate on overcoming mesothelioma.
The good news is that there are many advances being made in treating this disease. With advancements, more people survive at all ages.
Hearing you have cancer is devastating, but I continue to remain hopeful, as do many other mesothelioma patients. As mesothelioma sufferers, we come together to share experiences and to support each other. We cry when things are not working and celebrate victories when the treatment works.
Many people ask me, “Why do you do what you do?” I share my mesothelioma story to bring awareness to the situation. Without awareness, nothing will change. With my story, I can offer hope to someone who was diagnosed. It can help someone stop from living in fear of mesothelioma. If I can help one person overcome their fear of living with mesothelioma, I have done the right thing.
Thank you for sharing your story, Heather. You are an inspiration!