Friday, 3 March 2017

A Story of Cancer, Struggle and Hope

A while back, Life As It Is was contacted by a young woman Heather Von St James, a cancer survivor who asked if she could share her story with my blog. I was more than happy to be used as a platform for this cause. 18 months down the line, I have since been contacted by Virgil Anderson, also wanting to raise awareness of Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, resulting in 43,000 deaths around the world per annumWe know today how dangerous exposure to asbestos is. It is banned in 60 countries. Tragically, it is not yet banned worldwide.

Whether it is the sufferer or their family and friends, Life As It Is for so many people, is one affected by cancer. Here's Virgil's story...

A Personal Story of Cancer, Struggle, and Hope by guest writer Virgil Anderson

Mesothelioma is one of the most devastating types of cancer to be diagnosed with and while my story of being sick includes struggle, it also has hope. My biggest hope as I tell my story to whoever will listen is that I can help people learn from what happened to me and that they can prevent being exposed to harmful asbestos and getting sick with mesothelioma.

The beginning of my story is in West Virginia where I was born and raised. I started working in high school, and being young, strong and willing to take any paying job, I found a position in demolition. The work was tough and involved tearing down old buildings, sometimes with equipment, but also with my hands. It was dirty, dusty work, and what I did not know at the time was that older buildings were full of asbestos and that the dust I was breathing in contained dangerous fibers of this mineral.

Eventually I went on to get more skilled work. I became a mechanic, but worked my way up doing less skilled jobs, like tearing the hood liners out of older cars and replacing them with new materials. Because asbestos protects against heat and fire, it was used in the hood liners of many cars. As I tore those out, again, I was breathing in asbestos fibers. Even as a skilled mechanic, I was exposed to asbestos. I worked on brakes and clutches, both of which have asbestos in them. All the while I had no idea the risks I was taking just by doing my job and earning a living.

Asbestos was used in a lot of applications, but especially in buildings and cars, the two areas of my working life. Asbestos is still used now, but because of regulations and laws it is used less often and workers have to be educated and informed of the risks of being around it and of how to use appropriate safety gear. I didn’t have these benefits, so over years as I worked, without knowing it, mesothelioma was developing around my lungs.

As I got older I began to experience symptoms, like shortness of breath, chest pains, and a terrible cough. When I got checked out by my doctor I eventually received a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, but by this point it had developed pretty far into my chest cavity. I was not even eligible for surgery to try to remove the tumors because the cancer had spread too much.

I am now hopeful that courses of chemotherapy will help reduce my symptoms and slow the spread of the disease, but this is a terrible cancer to have to live with. I live with a death sentence and I am still in my 50s. My hope in telling this story is that I can move other people to learn more about asbestos and to evaluate their own risks. Asbestos has not gone away. It is still lurking in old houses, in ships, in factories, in cars and in other places. If you think you may be exposed to asbestos, take steps to work around it safely and get screened early for mesothelioma.

Virgil Anderson at home in West Virginia

PLEASE NOTE is a website filled with a plethora of comprehensive information surrounding mesothelioma and the trust funds that are available to certain victims.

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