I was standing beside my husband Brian on the day he learned he had mesothelioma.
A young doctor — seemingly indifferent to our reaction — delivered the grave news, and he wasted no time in adding there was no cure for this asbestos-related cancer.
Barely able to comprehend how this could be happening, surgery was my first thought. At 52, Brian still had lots of living to do.
Despite the strongest of wills, Brian’s courageous battle with mesothelioma ended two years after his diagnosis.
Almost 16 years have passed, and since then, I have channeled my grief along more positive paths such as promoting awareness about the dangers of asbestos, and reaching out to help other mesothelioma caregivers through my book “Lean on Me” and my blogs on The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com.
Brian was the world to me, but he was just one of the many men and women who have lost their lives to mesothelioma. Their needless deaths are a testament to the deadly nature of asbestos, whose killing spree is far from over.
Because of the long latency period (sometimes up to 50 years) between exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease, experts predict many men and women will succumb to mesothelioma in the coming decades.
Though this news is distressing, I find it comforting to know those diagnosed with mesothelioma today and in the future won’t face Brian’s bleak prognosis.
So much has changed since he was diagnosed in 1999.
Better education regarding asbestos and asbestos related diseases has led to earlier diagnoses and wider treatment options. Medical advancements have also improved quality of life and extended lives.
Through my writing and research, I’ve become more aware of the men and women who are living with mesothelioma and achieving remarkable survival rates, particularly in the U.S.
Surgeons, including Dr. David Sugarbaker, who specialized in pleural mesothelioma, and his brother Dr. Paul H. Sugarbaker, one of the nation’s innovators and top authorities on the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma, are spearheading the search for a cure.
Promising treatments, such as immunotherapy, which harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease, have also emerged through clinical trials.
A better understanding of the importance of nutrition and the benefit of complimentary therapies has led to mesothelioma patients taking an active role in the treatment of their disease.
From experience, the one thing mesothelioma patients and their caregivers need above all else is hope.
Like everyone who has been affected by mesothelioma, Brian fought to live.
When it came to courage and determination, he had it in spades. What he didn’t have here in Australia, however, was a doctor and medical team willing to go the distance to save his life.
Every time I acknowledge a wonderful story of survival, I cannot help but wonder what it would have meant for Brian if he had the opportunity to be operated on by Dr. David Sugarbaker or if had taken part in an immunotherapy clinical trial.
For me, there will always be feelings of regret regarding Brian’s treatment options, but I rejoice with every mesothelioma patient who is beating the odds.
Their stories of survival are a beacon of hope for everyone affected by this horrible disease.