I was surprised to learn that people are still suffering from exposure to asbestos. I thought asbestos was a thing of the past. We all know how bad it is for our health and that it has to be removed very carefully from old buildings. I assumed it was no longer used and that it likely only existed in a few old, abandoned buildings if it existed at all. Apparently that is not the case and asbestos is still being used in the U.S. to the tune of 30 million pounds per year. That shocked me!
The other day I was listening to a news podcast when a story about Libby, Montana came on. The story highlighted a woman named Gayla Benefield and how for years she had tried to get people to pay attention to what was happening in her town. People were dyeing from asbestos related cancer at a rate that seemed statistically impossible. Entire families were developing this cancer. It was normal to see people in their fifties walking around with oxygen tanks. (source)
After Benefield got the attention of the media and the government an investigation found that a local mine was responsible. Vermiculite had been mined for 40 years and over that time period the vermiculite, which was tainted with asbestos dust, was distributed all over the town, including playgrounds, baseball fields, and roads (source). People were being poisoned for years and from early childhood on. The EPA later conducted a massive cleanup of the entire town.
The story really stuck with me. I’ve thought about it for days imagining how helpless town members must have felt as one by one their bodies succumbed to cancer. Then I got an email from Heather Von St. James asking me to help her share her story for Asbestos Awareness Week 2015. She is a Mesothelioma cancer survivor. Her father worked with asbestos and, due to that second-hand exposure, she developed cancer decades later. Mesothelioma isn’t curable, but it can be treated to prolong life and slow down the advancement of the disease. This is why early detection is so crucial. St. James underwent a new surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy and refers to her recovery from the disease as “miraculous.” She spends her time writing and speaking about Mesothelioma cancer and raising awareness about asbestos exposure. She is a tireless, devoted advocate for other victims of Mesothelioma.
I was incredibly moved by her story and commitment to helping others. I wanted to help her spread her message: Through awareness there is hope.
If you were exposed to asbestos as a child it is important to let your primary care doctor know so you can both be aware of symptoms and the possible development of cancer. For more information visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance at www.mesothelioma.com.
Please help us spread the news about Asbestos Awareness Week 2015 (April 1st – 7th) so people can get treatment sooner rather than later and so all of us can be more aware of the toxins in our environment. The sooner people are aware the sooner we’ll develop a cure and hopefully eradicate the use of asbestos all together. Let’s help keep hope alive for people facing this disease.
My Mother-In-Law developed lung cancer after her ovarian cancer spread to her lungs this past year. She was not suffering from exposure to asbestos, but the cancer did affect her pleural cavity and it was difficult for her to breathe. Your lungs fill up with fluid and it is like drowning from the inside out. Breathing is life so you can imagine how uncomfortable it is to suffer from lung cancer. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. I hope we can find a way to prevent and cure all forms of cancer. So many of us have lost loved ones to this disease. It is heartbreaking and devastating to watch family members and friends deteriorate right before our eyes. My hope is that one day we will have the knowledge and ability to prevent cancer from taking the lives of the people we love.