Mesothelioma Survivor Attributes His Unwavering Strength to Faith

Stories from Survivors

To say that Kevin Hession’s faith in God and religion is important to him and his outlook on his diagnosis is an understatement. After being diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in August 2021, attending church is at the top of his priority list – and not just once a week.

“I happen to be Catholic and because of this change in my physical capabilities I go to as many daily masses as I can go to,” Kevin told The Mesothelioma Center at “Somewhere between 4 and 5 days a week I will go to mass and that’s given me a sense of peace and acceptance.” 

Kevin says he’s very realistic and understands the challenges a mesothelioma diagnosis presents. He knows that some patients have far exceeded their initial mesothelioma prognosis, but that this is an aggressive cancer.

“I know what I’m up against,” he said. “I know at some point in time I’m likely going to die from mesothelioma, but I’m okay with that and part of the reason for that is my religious beliefs.”

Not only does Kevin attend services, he’s active in church as well. For the past decade he has been an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at his church. For the past year and a half, he’s been bringing his faith and active roles within his church to people who are in the hospital and can’t make it to in-person church services.

“At the very hospital where they did my surgery, I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion,” Kevin shares. “What that means is 1 day a week as a volunteer at Baptist Medical Center in downtown Jacksonville, FL I visit Catholic patients and I give them Holy Communion if they desire to receive it. I can visit up to 40 patients in the course of a 4 to 5 hour day.”

Sharing His Faith and His Story

“When I walk in, I say ‘Knock, knock! Hi, my name is Kevin. I’m an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. You’re listed on the census as a Catholic,’” Kevin explained. 

He offers patients communion if they’d like to receive it. Kevin adds, “There are certain prayers I go through and I give Holy Communion if they so desire. But you can see the reactions of people. I’ve had people in tears.”

His volunteer work also allows him to share his own mesothelioma story. He tries to provide some hope and comfort for others who may also be on a cancer journey. 

“When I meet people, I say: ‘I currently have mesothelioma. I was actually operated on in this very hospital,’” Kevin recounts. “Sometimes I’ll even say: ‘I spent 9 days in a hospital bed on this very floor.’” 

Kevin says that in sharing the details of his own mesothelioma treatment, patients know he can relate to what they’re experiencing. He notes that while the patients he visits may have other cancers, diseases and conditions, his story helps build connections.

“It gives me a lot of credibility with the Catholic patients that I visit,” he says. “Like I always say, no one goes to a hospital to be on vacation. It’s downright hard work to be in a hospital as a patient. When someone comes in speaking their language it gains a lot of traction.”

Many of the patients Kevin engages with have been in the hospital for many weeks, unable to experience church during that time. While coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis is very challenging, he credits his own diagnosis with giving him the opportunity to do something satisfying for others.

“I never would have been able to do this but for the fact that I have mesothelioma,” Kevin says. “ I get a huge sense of satisfaction from getting to actually reach out to them about something that’s important to most Catholics.”

Helping Others While Helping Himself

Kevin admits that while his volunteer work is well worth the effort, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. He says he warms up to it each day. But each day of volunteering can also take a physical toll.

“By the end of the day, I’m physically tired but I feel like I’ve done something very important,” Kevin shares. “I counted my steps one day with a pedometer and my day turns out to be a 3.5 mile walk in the hospital. I help around 20 patients a day with their spiritual needs.”

He feels each interaction with a patient not only helps them with their spiritual needs, but offers hope. Kevin says his current health speaks to the quality of care at Baptist Medical Center as well.

“I’ve helped this hospital,” he notes. “I’ve helped to actually promote the hospital a little bit because I usually give a plug, saying I went through a lengthy surgery. And they say, ‘You don’t look sick. You look pretty healthy to me.’ Then I say, ‘Well, I could take my shirt off and you’d see a big scar on my back!”

Kevin ensures everyone who desires communion at Baptist Medical Center is able to receive it. His efforts led to an opportunity to take part in a rare honor for Catholics. 

“I actually gave communion to a retired monsignor,” he recounts. “Now that’s big time stuff. Priests are usually the ones who give me communion, not me giving communion to a priest. And what a privilege. What an honor it was for me to do that.”

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