Walking in Your Shoes: Know Where You Stand with Asbestos Exposure
March 9, 2012
A few months ago, I found out that my mom may have developed stomach cancer because of asbestos exposure.
This month marks the anniversary of her death from the terrible disease. So I’ve decided to honor her memory and your courage by walking in your shoes. I’ll take you through the decisions my family would have faced had we discovered a link between asbestos and my mom’s illness earlier.
So let’s take a walk.
Finding Out about Asbestos Exposure
Let’s start with my mom’s cancer diagnosis. The information available to you will affect any decisions you make. In our case, we didn’t have a lot of information. We knew that my mom had stomach cancer. But we didn’t know the cause.
It’s widely known that asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and lung cancer. But many people are unaware of the links between asbestos and other types of cancer. Studies have connected asbestos to leukemia and lymphomas, as well as breast, colorectal, gastrointestinal, ovarian, and prostrate cancers.
Before I joined the Mesothelioma Center, I had no idea the list of asbestos-related diseases was so long.
In fact, I’m not sure when I learned that asbestos exposure is a risk factor for stomach cancer. When my mom was diagnosed years ago, I researched the causes.
But I don’t remember anything about asbestos. I checked the risk factors on some popular medical websites again today: still no mention of asbestos exposure.
But what if I had seen asbestos on a list of risk factors? Well, I would have asked if she had been exposed. She probably would have said no, but I would have asked follow-up questions like:
- Were you ever exposed to asbestos in some place you lived?
- Do you remember the school where asbestos was removed years ago? Were you ever around that or any other asbestos abatement site?
- What about your old jobs? When you worked at the plant, what did you do and what types of products did you make?
At least I’d like to think I would have asked these questions. After all, hindsight is 20/20. But that’s why we’re taking this walk. Perhaps my hindsight can help your family make necessary decisions.
It Helps To Know Where You Stand
Too often, people are exposed to asbestos without their knowledge. That’s why I would have asked her all those questions. But if you’re already sick, why would you need to know that you’ve been exposed to asbestos?
In my mom’s case, she really wanted to know the cause of her illness. She wanted to know where she stood so she could pick her support team.
For instance, she would have consulted a doctor who had experience treating asbestos-related diseases. She was diagnosed at an advanced stage and given few treatment options.
It seemed like she was just given a diagnosis and told what to do. That didn’t sit well with her.
I don’t know if any other options would have been available to her at the time, but I’m sure she would have found some comfort in having an asbestos specialist on her team.
She also would have appreciated support from the community of people dealing with asbestos-related diseases. She would have welcomed useful advice like nutrition or stress management tips. She wasn’t internet savvy, but I know she would have asked me to check the Patient Advocate blog for her every week.
You’ve probably guessed that her team would include a mesothelioma attorney. But probably not for the reason you expect.
I’m honestly not sure if my parents would have sued. And I wouldn’t have tried to influence their decision. Deciding whether to file a legal claim is a personal question that requires careful consideration. I would just try to address their concerns in a timely manner.
I’ll tackle those concerns in next week’s blog.
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll spread the word about the hazards of asbestos exposure, including lesser known asbestos-related diseases like stomach cancer. You never know who could use the information.