Conquering Mesothelioma: The Resilience of D.G. Blackburn

Stories from Survivors

In July 2022, D.G. Blackburn’s life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. A survivor at heart, Blackburn decided to do what he could to beat the odds. He trusted his doctors and took the first step toward fighting his cancer. 

He endeavored to overcome his fears through resilience, determination and the unwavering support of his loved ones. Blackburn’s story is a motivational one. Instead of giving in to fear and uncertainty, he approached his mesothelioma diagnosis head-on. 

“What gave me the greatest strength was walking through the children’s cancer building,” Blackburn told The Mesothelioma Center at “To see the little ones with no hair pushing around their IV poles and still smiling  – at that moment you realize, ‘I have lived my life. They’re just starting.’ That’s what gave me the most strength. If they could be there and not complain, so could I.” 

Diagnosis and Treatment: Facing Adversity Head-On

Blackburn, 65, had already faced health challenges, including a thoracic aortic aneurysm a decade ago. He continues to require monitoring by his medical team due to an aortic patch. 

“Every year they check it to ensure the patch is still there,” he said. “But, on one visit, they saw something in the background.”

Blackburn had to undergo three biopsies. Each procedure left him bruised and swollen. His history of an aortic aneurysm made the biopsies more challenging. 

“They used a CT scan to do the biopsy,” he said. “I had to go in and out of the machine for an hour and a half while they pushed needles into me.”

Undeterred by the hurdles, Blackburn approached his mesothelioma treatment with a can-do attitude, saying, “Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.” Last year, he endured four rounds of chemotherapy under the care of the esteemed Dr. An Uche at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California.

Blackburn’s therapy utilized the drugs Alimta and cisplatin. His commitment to the treatment plan and his resilience during the chemotherapy sessions, which were eight hours long, earned him his reputation as an atypical patient. 

“I’m kind of a tough, stoic person,” said Blackburn. “I don’t worry about any of this stuff. I believe in my doctors. They’re the best in the world. I go to the best hospital in the world.” 

Mesothelioma survivor D.G. Blackburn
While undergoing treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma, D.G. Blackburn would walk the halls of the hospital.

HIPEC and the Journey to Healing

Blackburn’s journey took a pivotal turn last summer when he underwent hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy by Dr. Mohamed Adam at UCSF Cancer Center. The 19-hour HIPEC procedure involved the removal of more than 500 tumors. 

“They say it’s like taking the wallpaper off the walls,” Blackburn said of the operation to remove his peritoneal lining.

Estimated recovery times are usually six to 9 months. Blackburn defied expectations and felt back to normal within about two weeks. Throughout his healing process, Blackburn’s daughter, who was in medical school, stood by his side. She researched extensively about mesothelioma, ensuring her father had access to the best possible care and knowledge about his condition. Blackburn said the support of his family, particularly his daughter, was invaluable during this trying time.

Blackburn’s recovery was not without its challenges. Navigating the postoperative period he faced difficulties with sleep and restrictions on eating and drinking. His PICC line (a type of IV) became clogged at one point. His kidneys went into failure and his limbs swelled dramatically. 

“One of my arms was leaking water and my other arm had these huge water blisters on it,” he said. The swelling prevented the use of IVs. “They were concerned because I didn’t have IVs for almost a day. Eventually, they figured out they had to go with an IV in my neck,” he said. 

“All kinds of problems, you know? But they could only handle one problem at a time, so they focused on one,” he explained. “When that one settles down, they can worry about something else.” 

During his time in the ICU, Blackburn enjoyed walking around the hospital floor with his oncologist. He found solace in sneaking water from ice chips for some much-needed relief.

Determined to aid others in their battle against mesothelioma, Blackburn is now enrolled in the Natera monitoring program. This initiative involves periodic blood draws and Altera testing for tumor genetic profiles of residual disease. The screening is part of a more extensive clinical trial study. 

“Needles are still my biggest fear,” joked Blackburn. Despite this, he embraced the program, knowing his participation could positively impact the broader mesothelioma population. 

D.G. Blackburn honored by France
Blackburn, an official ambassador for the French brandy Armagnac, was recently knighted by the country.

Finding Joy Amid Adversity

As a former carpenter and woodworker, Blackburn said his mesothelioma may have come from exposure to asbestos while working on old houses. He believes awareness and outreach can help spare others from the terrible effects of asbestos-related diseases. 

Blackburn’s journey as a mesothelioma survivor is a testament to the power of maintaining a positive outlook on life. Although he’s dealt with providers asking him about end-of-life decisions, Blackburn focuses on savoring the joys of his hobbies. He’s found immense delight in collecting rare liquors such as scotch and whiskey. His passion led him to become an official ambassador for Armagnac, a niche French brandy. In recognition of his contributions, Blackburn was knighted in France. He plans to revisit the country this fall.

No journey is without pain and challenges, but Blackburn remains steadfast in his mindset. He faces each day with gratitude, cherishing every moment with his loved ones. His inspirational story shines amid the adversity of a cancer diagnosis. 

As he continues to live each day facing mesothelioma, Blackburn is determined that joy and purpose can be found even in the face of the most challenging circumstances. He inspires hope, encourages perseverance and exemplifies the indomitable will to live life to the fullest.

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