Maybe you're like me. When I saw the announcements on TV about those who need to be represented by lawyers if they have mesothelioma, I thought and said, "I've never even heard of anyone with that disease. What's the big deal?" And if anyone was near me, they agreed. They didn't know of anyone who had it.
And then Phil, a friend of ours, suddenly was diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed away within seven months. I felt sad that I'd down-played the devastation of this disease.
Then this month, I found out April 1-7 was Asbestos Awareness Week and that every year, 3000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Phil had worked with asbestos in the Navy shipyards. He served his country in the Navy, as my father had, but unlike my father, worked in the presence of asbestos. That exposure took his life.
But asbestos doesn't just take lives from direct contact. It's also believed to be a "second-hand" kind of disease. Here's the story of one survivor, Heather Von St. James:
"In 2005, at the age of 36, and only three months after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Lily Rose, I was diagnosed with plural mesothelioma. After learning of this life-altering diagnosis, my husband, Cameron and I, embarked on a search to find the best mesothelioma treatment care available. Our search eventually led us to Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned mesothelioma surgeon at the Boston based Brigham and Women's Hospital.
"I had never worked with asbestos, but my father did, and secondhand exposure as a child was enough to make me sick decades later. I was lucky, able to make a miraculous recovery through surgery. But I experienced for myself the fear, pain and suffering this disease can cause, and I believe I’ve found my calling fighting for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.
"Today, I am an eight-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and have made it my mission to help other mesothelioma victims around the globe. I share my personal story to help spread hope and awareness for others going through this, in hopes that one day no one else will have to.
"Because of that, Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1 – 7) is very close to my heart. Join me and organizations like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization as a voice for the victims, and together we can work toward an end to mesothelioma and asbestos disease.
"Remember: From awareness grows hope. Each voice could save a life."