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Mesothelioma survivors are living longer with the cancer than ever before. Breakthroughs in traditional treatments and integrating alternative therapies have helped mesothelioma survivors live on average 12 to 21 months following a diagnosis.
Written By: Emily Ward, Last modified: October 15, 2021
Mesothelioma Survivors and Their Stories
Thanks to advancements in treatment and earlier detection, many mesothelioma patients have been able to outlive their initial prognosis by years. These survivor stories provide hope and inspiration.
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 1999
Ruth opted against the conventional treatments that were recommended upon her diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma in 1999, taking an alternative therapy approach instead. She found the Immune Augmentative Therapy Centre in Freeport, Bahamas, which focused on rebuilding her immune system and allowed her body to fight off the cancer without the toxicity of chemotherapy or radiation. She returned to Freeport annually for many years and relies on herbal formulas.
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2007
Alexis was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2007, had major surgery that removed part of her diaphragm, yet kept her wedding plans in place. She still rides to work on her scooter and refuses to let mesothelioma get in the way of the life she and her husband built. They don’t know how many wedding anniversaries they will have, but they celebrate their time together. “It’s kind of cool now to hear people say, ‘You don’t look or act sick,’” Alexis says.
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2011
Sydney nearly died from rheumatic fever more than 60 years ago. She knows what it’s like to fight for her life, which she has done successfully with pleural mesothelioma. She and her husband embarked on an aggressive treatment plan and took charge of her care by questioning doctors and getting second and third opinions. “I’m an independent, outspoken person,” Sydney says. “I certainly wasn’t ready to say, ‘You win, mesothelioma.’ We attacked this monster with every resource we could find.”
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2002
Tim originally decided against surgery and chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002, but his daughter convinced him otherwise. He traveled to Boston and underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. The surgery and chemotherapy were taxing, but he has exceeded all expectations. “I’ve done a lot these last 10 years,” Tim says. “I’m glad I listened to my daughter. My family now is what keeps me going.”
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2001
Trina traveled the country — and loved every minute of it — after recovering from the cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy combination. She was diagnosed at a young age, which gave her a fighting chance at long-term survival. “I was told to get my affairs in order. The diagnosis was devastating, but I was determined to live long enough to see what my two children would become,” Trina says. “I’ve done that. Now every day is a gift. So I’m out seeing the country.” Her latest adventure? Traveling with a good friend in an 18-wheeler that serves as a home-away-from-home. “If it all ends today, I’ll have no regrets,” she says. “I lived longer than I ever thought I would.”
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2002
Michelle wanted something special to commemorate her 10-year milestone as a mesothelioma survivor. She had an artist tattoo “FAITH” on her left wrist, where she could see it anytime she needed some help. “I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I have faith that God has a plan for me,” Michelle says. “After everything I’ve been through, it would be impossible to think otherwise.” A single mom, Michelle was diagnosed at 44. Her daughter was 5 at the time. The hardest part emotionally was getting past the thought of leaving her daughter at such a young age. “She grew up quickly, taking care of me when I was so sick,” Michelle says. “And now, I live for her.”
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Finding out you or a loved one has mesothelioma can feel overwhelming, but you do not have to face this situation alone. There are plenty of resources to help you through this difficult time.
Since I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2012, I have found support from family and friends, as well as through organizations such as The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com and its online support group.
Many hospitals and churches host cancer support groups where people can meet in person. You may not find many people familiar with mesothelioma near where you live — I didn’t in my hometown in Maine — but if you search online, you will find an active community that you can turn to for support.
Learning from medical professionals, patient advocates and mesothelioma survivors will help you understand what steps to take on your treatment journey.
There is no blueprint to becoming a long-term mesothelioma survivor, but making certain healthy choices can only benefit your survival.
Find the Right Doctor: Go to a specialist with training and experience in mesothelioma treatment. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Ask plenty of questions to be as informed as possible about your health.
Protect Your Lungs: Avoid tobacco smoke and other types of air contamination.
Make Smart Nutrition Choices: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, and cut back on processed foods.
Stay Active: Do as much light exercise as you can every day, and keep your mind occupied with activities you enjoy.
Make the Most of Your Time: Do what makes you happy. Appreciate the little things in life that bring you joy. Try not to stress over things outside your control and treat every day like a holiday.
Facing mesothelioma is difficult for a patient’s whole family, and caregivers need just as much help as patients do. If you are taking care of a loved one with mesothelioma, don’t hesitate to seek out support for yourself as well.
Why Do Some Mesothelioma Patients Live Longer Than Others?
Surviving mesothelioma is an ever-evolving science. How long someone lives following a diagnosis depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer, its location, how fast it spreads, and a person’s overall health, age and gender. Life expectancy varies from case to case.
Early detection plays a vital role in increasing someone’s chance of becoming a long-term survivor. The earlier mesothelioma is detected, the more treatment options a patient has. The development of new diagnostic techniques has led to more effective treatments.
A knowledgeable specialist can treat the cancer aggressively, increasing your odds of long-term survival. Finding the right specialist can make a world of difference with a rare cancer such as mesothelioma. Improved surgical techniques, better drug combinations and more targeted therapies are important to increased survival rates.
We feature inspirational stories on our Wall of Hope, including first-person accounts of how mesothelioma survivors are fighting and winning their battles.
Each survivor has a different story, but we all share something: Hope. We hope our stories inspire you and help you in some way.
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We honor the stories of mesothelioma survivors who lived their lives to the fullest before they passed. Their stories still serve as a reminder of the medical advancements needed to cure this disease.
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2010
Andy survived a horrific motorcycle crash that almost killed him in 2004, and he had every intention of surviving his 2010 diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma. He was not a surgical candidate because his cancer already had metastasized, but he found something better. With the help of mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Jablons at the University of California-San Francisco, Andy enrolled in a clinical trial involving amatuximab, an experimental immunotherapy drug that worked well for him. “I consider myself extremely lucky for a lot of reasons,” Andy said. “I haven’t won the lottery yet, but I’m working on that.” Andy also went on to use medical cannabis as a complimentary therapy.
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 1991
Wayne spent his career as a union electrician in Ohio. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1991, and it pushed him into an early retirement. Wayne attributed his long-term survival to antioxidants like melatonin that are found in red tart cherries, which he ate every night for more than two decades. “There’s something magical in those cherries,” Wayne said. “I don’t know exactly why they work, but they do.”
Larry lived six years after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, which also killed his father many years before. Larry, who lived in South Florida, was an avid runner who organized the annual Miles for Meso road race in Boca Raton each February. He worked tirelessly to raise awareness of this dreaded disease and raise money for research. Even after five surgeries, Larry still completed a Father’s Day Triathlon in 2011 with his daughter in North Carolina. He shunned much of the traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatment and relied mostly on immunotherapy and alternative medicine. He died in June 2012.
Janelle was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at the age of 31, which is unusually young for this disease. Her six-year fight against the disease turned her into a hometown hero in tiny Rushville, Indiana, and a national spokesperson who advocated strongly for more research funding and more diligence in ending the asbestos era in America. The mayor of Rushville designated June 6 as “Wonder Woman Day” to honor her fight. She played an important role in gaining congressional support for a resolution designating September 26 as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day. She died in 2013.
Christine lived in England and never worked around asbestos, but she believed she was exposed to it through her father, who mixed asbestos cement every day on his job site and then wore his work clothes home every night. Christine was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2007, years after her father had died, likely of the same disease. She underwent repeated chemotherapy that shrank the tumor and controlled the disease, allowing her to be active in various cancer awareness events in the United Kingdom. Christine died in August 2013.
Mike D. underwent his first surgery for mesothelioma in February 2001. After undergoing an additional surgery, as well as other treatments, he remained relatively physically active. He encouraged fellow mesothelioma patients to use the resources around them and rely on loved ones. Mike passed away in September 2011.
James was originally diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2001. Despite being given less than a year to live, he managed to survive another seven years. He did not undergo surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, but rather chose to combat his disease through a strict nutritional regimen and mind-body therapy. He died in 2008.
Judy was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 1990 and lived with the disease until 2010. In addition to undergoing several extensive surgeries, she relied heavily on alternative treatments such as meditation, massage therapy and nutritional remedies. Her story is chronicled in the book “Surviving Mesothelioma: Making Your Own Miracle.” She passed away in 2010.
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