Longtime Cancer Survivor Reflects on Mesothelioma Awareness

Awareness & Research

Over the last year, I have been able to shine a spotlight on mesothelioma on a national level – especially when I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Cancer Moonshot Forum at The White House. 

I was just 21 years old when I was told I had peritoneal mesothelioma.  Being diagnosed so young is a rarity, and I knew nothing about the disease. I didn’t even know where to start. Research information that was available to me at the time gave a bleak outlook, plus I didn’t fit the description of the typical mesothelioma patient. 

Looking back, I am grateful for how far I’ve come with being able to spread awareness and I’m happy for where this will take me in the future. Words can’t even describe how much this means to me.

A wise woman once said, “Your situation may not change, but God is going to change your perception of the situation. You’re going to have a totally different outlook.” At the time I didn’t really digest the meaning, but those words have stuck with me to this day. 

As I prepare for Mesothelioma Awareness Day, held every year on Sept. 26, I am taking time to reflect on what my mesothelioma journey has meant to me. 

Spreading Mesothelioma Awareness

Using my voice to share my story is vital to spreading mesothelioma awareness. I’m pretty comfortable talking with people and sharing my journey on multiple platforms. This allows me to change the narrative about the typical mesothelioma patient. 

It’s important for people to actually see that a young woman of color was exposed to asbestos as a toddler and diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 21.

The looks on peoples’ faces when I tell them I’m a mesothelioma survivor are still a bit amusing to me. The perception of what people think you should look like as a cancer patient and survivor have been distorted by society. 

Creating a Space for Other Survivors

Transparency is key to my journey. Thousands of people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, yet as far as I know, before I started writing about real moments within my journey, you probably couldn’t find many people who would talk about it. Things like how HIPEC surgery impacted their lives in a major way, or how mental health is so important while battling cancer, or how faith brought me through. 

My transparency is opening up more dialogue for others. I’m creating a space for mesothelioma patients and caregivers to feel comfortable asking uncomfortable questions, and to know that whatever they are experiencing, someone else experienced it and lived to talk about it. 

Overcoming Obstacles Along the Way

Navigating over and through obstacles is a way of life for me. Getting back to the wise words I mentioned previously, your circumstances may not change, but how you deal with them and perceive them will. 

Finding out you have a rare cancer is heavy. I mean, heavy. But being able to pull yourself up, shake yourself off and keep pushing no matter what makes the difference. Yes, you may have been told you have mesothelioma, but that doesn’t mean your world ends today. 

Bust through those obstacles, know your options and surround yourself with information about this rare disease so you can get a better sense of what you’re up against. I learned all of these things. 

The first oncologist I went to gave up from the start. But I didn’t, and I knew that he wasn’t going to be able to give me the care I needed. I navigated through the obstacle because even though I was initially presented with a bad mesothelioma prognosis, my perception wasn’t focused on the situation, but on overcoming it. 

Over the years, sharing my story of being a peritoneal mesothelioma survivor, or thriver as I like to say, and spreading awareness about this rare disease has become a great passion of mine. You never know how your journey may impact someone else’s life until you open your mouth and speak.