Mesothelioma Survivor Discusses Risks and Asbestos Abatement

Stories from Survivors

For nearly a decade, Raeleen Minchuk Prokopetz has been beating the odds. At only 36 years old, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

People with peritoneal mesothelioma have a life expectancy of about 12 months with chemotherapy alone. About 50% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients survive 5 years or more with aggressive treatments such as surgery.

Raeleen had extensive cytoreductive surgery and then heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC. She’ll be celebrating hitting the 10-year survival mark this October.

Now 45 years old, Raeleen doesn’t fit the typical profile of someone with mesothelioma. Most diagnoses are among men who are 60+ years old. 

The disease is also most commonly the result of occupational asbestos exposure. People who worked in the military, manufacturing, mining and construction are at the highest risk. Raeleen’s asbestos exposure likely happened as a child during a home renovation project. 

Importance of Safe Asbestos Abatement

Proper asbestos abatement practices to remove the toxic mineral from homes is critical to avoid the risk of asbestos exposure. For Raeleen, the importance of safe asbestos removal is personal given her experience with mesothelioma and now that one of her sons is working in the asbestos abatement field.

Raeleen’s son Tyce now has a job with a restoration company. Part of his duties involve asbestos abatement. She tells us she can’t help worrying about his long-term health being around asbestos even though she knows he’s following all important proper safety protocols.

“He’s 21 years old and working with asbestos,” Raeleen said. “His risk of exposure scares me.” 

Because of Raeleen’s personal experience with asbestos exposure at home, she’s also proud of her son for helping others mitigate their risk safely. She knows the importance of hiring an abatement professional rather than taking on the dangerous task of attempting DIY removal.

Survivor Was Exposed to Asbestos in Her Family’s Home 

When just a baby, Raeleen breathed in asbestos dust while crawling on the floors of her grandparents’ home as her father renovated the house. The public wasn’t fully aware yet of the dangers of asbestos in 1979.

The use of asbestos in homes was widespread before the 1980s. From the floor to the roof, asbestos products were used in a myriad of ways throughout homes. 

Common Asbestos Products in Homes

While these products were phased out, they can still be found in older homes. Disturbing asbestos during a remodeling project can propel asbestos fibers into the air, allowing them to be ingested or inhaled.

Legacy asbestos in homes not only presents a danger to anyone who disturbs it during renovations, but in the unfortunate event of a home fire, asbestos fibers can be released. Firefighters are at particularly high risk of asbestos exposure for this reason. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The latency period or time from exposure to development of symptoms for these diseases can be decades. The latency period for mesothelioma, for example, is 20 to 60 years from asbestos exposure to the first signs of mesothelioma symptoms.

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