Survivor Insight Series | 18 Months to Live by Rachele Baker: Part 1
- Stories from Survivors
- Jan. 30, 2013
It wasn’t just another day cleaning the garage when Rachele Baker came across some old memories. These were memories from her mother’s journal that had been stowed away.
The journal detailed every bit of her battle with mesothelioma.
Rachele made a choice to share her mother’s experiences with everyone else affected by the cancer-causing mineral asbestos by publishing the journal under the title, “Eighteen Months to Live.” We want to thank her for sharing the journey with the rest of the mesothelioma community.
What made you want to re-read your mothers journal?
I keep a large box of memorabilia in my garage. The box contains some things from my childhood and a lot of drawings, notes and writings from my daughter when she was young. I hadn’t opened my box of memorabilia in a long time. One day when I was going through the garage organizing and cleaning, I decided to look in my memorabilia box. My mother’s handwritten journal was very prominent in the box because she kept it in a bright orange binder. In addition to my mother’s journal, I found a large stack of letters that she had written me during her final months of life. I hadn’t looked at my mother’s journal since immediately after her death. I started reading my mother’s journal for the second time and I realized that this was something valuable that should be shared with others.
What was your reaction to the diagnosis?
I had never heard of mesothelioma before and I did not really understand it. It did not seem real to me that my mother was going to die.
How was your mother exposed to asbestos?
My mother’s first husband worked for Johns Manville in California bagging asbestos. My mother washed his work clothes.
What was your goal when you decided to publish this book?
I wrote this book to love and honor my mother as well as to honor her wish that her journal be published so that her experiences could help others.
What is the mesothelioma community’s reaction to your book?
A lovely women, Sue, wrote a very nice review about it; “Brilliant. Moving. Helpful. As the wife of a mesothelioma sufferer, I found this book to be very helpful. It also gave my husband ideas about coping with pain. Very touching.”
What were some of your biggest questions after hearing about your mother’s diagnosis?
I wanted to know if everything was being done that could be done to help my mother and possibly save or prolong her life. I wanted my mother to get a second opinion, but she decided she did not feel that was necessary.
Have you become more involved in the mesothelioma community?
Yes. I have written about my mother’s experience and her journal has been published on some online sites designed for mesothelioma victims and their families.
What advice would you give to someone who has just received a diagnosis of mesothelioma?
Talk to several oncologists before choosing one to be your primary doctor. Make sure they are experienced in dealing with mesothelioma patients. Discuss your diagnosis and potential treatment plans with each doctor. Talk to other mesothelioma patients to get recommendations for good doctors. Go on the Internet and research different doctors. Find a doctor that you are very comfortable with and that you feel will give you the best care possible.
Read everything you can about mesothelioma and the various treatment options. Talk to other mesothelioma patients in online forums. Take advantage of online and/or in-person support groups. Take really good care of yourself and your body. Take time to enjoy your life as much as you can. Make sure you have at least one support person that you can really count on to help you when you need it.
If you are interested in reading more about her book “Eighteen Months to Live”, you can find it here.
Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with The Mesothelioma Center. He works toward increasing education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of Ben's job is to reach out and engage with patients, caregivers and family members on our online communities.