Anger About Mesothelioma Turns into Compassion, Action

Wittenoom Asbestos Mine Sign

The devastation caused by mesothelioma has no boundaries — political, geographic or linguistic.

After publication of my book, ‘Lean on Me’ in 2004, I was invited to speak at the Global Asbestos Congress held in Tokyo, Japan. More than 800 delegates, including widows and widowers, from 40 countries attended the gathering in their fight against mesothelioma and asbestos.

I had the pleasure of meeting two Japanese women who lost their husbands to mesothelioma. After an interpreter introduced us, we hugged. There was no further need for translation. That embrace expressed the understanding and compassion for all of the pain and suffering we endured. We all found great comfort in this.

But comfort wasn’t the emotion we felt when this devastating cancer robbed us of our loved ones. It was anger.

Dealing with Anger After My Husband’s Death

During the two years I cared for my husband Brian as he battled mesothelioma, I felt angry about his pain and suffering, and the constant expectation of his death. When he passed, that anger grew. I was now a widow at the age of 51, mesothelioma robbed me of my partner, and I would spend the rest of my life missing him.

Twelve years have passed since Brian died. As I move on with my life during this journey of healing, I have let go of most of my anger. I say most because some of that anger will forever be directed at those responsible for killing my husband.

Brian’s illness and death was not caused because he neglected his health, or whether or not he smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol. Neither was it caused by a family gene. His fate was sealed from the moment he and his family moved to the asbestos mining town of Wittenoom.

My anger over his tragic loss of life is intensified by the fact that those directly responsible for his death ever uttered the words, “I am sorry.”

I will never forget my anguish just days following Brian’s diagnosis, when we found ourselves presenting our case to a number of these individuals at mediation. Not one of them showed us any compassion. In fact, I felt we were inconveniencing them and that they wanted us to disappear.

Still reeling from the shock of Brian’s three- to nine-month prognosis, their total disregard for our feelings was beyond my comprehension.

It was determined at Brian’s mediation session that the asbestos mining company in Wittenoom couldn’t be held responsible for his death because it was unaware of the dangers of the toxic mineral and its related diseases in 1954, the year my husband was exposed to asbestos.

No asbestos mining company can plead such ignorance today. Although the deadly nature of asbestos is now well-known, asbestos mining companies still are flourishing in countries around the world.

Asbestos Mines Are Not the Only Culprits

Even in those countries like Australia, where asbestos mining is banned, asbestos is everywhere, and the risk of asbestos dust exposure is an ever present and constant danger to us all.

Media coverage of asbestos-related stories has helped the public understand the toxicity of this mineral. It’s common knowledge that many existing homes and sheds in back yards contain asbestos. But still there are individuals who tear down these potentially dangerous structures themselves, rather than contact asbestos removal companies.

As a result of their negligence, microscopic, deadly asbestos fibers are sent into the air, immediately putting their lives at risk, as well as those of their families, neighbors and others in the vicinity.

More People Need to be Angry About Asbestos

Feeling anger after a loved one has died from an asbestos-related disease is natural, but our anger alone will not stop the cycle of asbestos-related ailments and death.

Men and women around the world are being diagnosed with mesothelioma on an ever-increasing scale and this tragic cycle of asbestos dust inhalation and death will continue for many years to come.

Asbestos is still being mined by companies in a number of countries whose policymakers are fully aware of the consequences, but they continue to put monetary gain above the value of human life. If we are ever to rid the world of this horror, everyone needs to be angry about asbestos now.

Be angry if someone in your neighborhood has or is planning to pull down any asbestos structures themselves. Please let them know of the dangers it can cause them and us.

Be angry if your municipality is allowing for deteriorating buildings that contain asbestos to remain standing in your community.

Be angry if there is any company or person putting your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk through damaging asbestos sheeting or products containing asbestos or dumping waste containing asbestos onto your streets or your local waste site.

When you’re done being angry, do something about it.

Anger is not a dirty word when it comes to asbestos and mesothelioma, and if we direct our anger in the right way, it can help us change a situation that is harmful to us and to others.

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Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer.

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