Sadly, John passed away in December 2016.

Posted on July 24, 2015

We have been touched by asbestos in individual ways, yet we are joined together by a bond of community. As a testament to the strength of our global family, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is highlighting the courageous stories of our members with the “Share Your Story” feature on our website.

This week, we would like to honor the story of John, as shared by himself, who is part of our ADAO family.

We encourage you to submit your personal stories by clicking here and following the simple instructions on the page. In sharing, comes healing. Remember, you are not alone.

“Facing Life with Strength and Hope” – John’s StoryJohn Schaffer

Name: John

Location: Minnesota

Date of Birth: 21-JAN-1941

Date of Diagnosis: 31-JUL- 2014

Diagnosis: Mesothelioma

Treatment: Chemotherapy

How has asbestos changed your life (unedited)? 

I am a Minnesota constituent. When the doctor uttered the words “I’m sorry but you have stage 4 mesothelioma cancer” my life changed. I thought, this can’t be me he’s talking about. This was a death threat and I knew that there was no cure and, of course, thought I would be dead in a few months. 13,000 people die from this horrible disease every year. I have a very good oncologist and as of July 31, 2015 it will be one year since I was diagnosed. I did go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a second opinion and after being told the same thing, there was no turning back. I didn’t qualify for any surgery or measles trial so I have been on chemotherapy since August 2014. This is the only thing that will work for no cancer growth. This is no picnic – don’t kid yourself – chemotherapy every three weeks – the first week I don’t feel good at all, the second week I am getting my strength back and start to want to do things and by the third week I am back to chemotherapy again. This is poison to anyone who doesn’t have this cancer — how does someone like me feel about that? I also have a CT scan every 9 weeks and hope like hell that there is no cancer growth. Lots of anxiety. We refer to it as “scanxiety.” After being diagnosed, I immediately lost 30 lbs, no appetite – lost muscle mass in arms and legs – all over – not a good deal, but what was I to do but have a good attitude, turn to my faith in God and try to get through it. I was a pipefitter for 42 years and worked with asbestos every day. The big asbestos companies knew the danger but they were making billions and left it at that. After a while they did provide paper masks, but what good they did. I have lost a lot of pipefitter friends from this disease and never dreamed it would happen to me. My wife, Rosemary has been my caregiver from the start and she deserves a medal. I know that this is hard on her as well as the rest of our family, but she is a trooper. When we got the bad news we made a pact to face this thing together and we have. She quit her part-time job at Costco and has devoted all her time to me. We live our lives together day by day and thank God for every day. She does take her time away from this to keep her sanity. She doesn’t miss going to any appointment with me. She is my second set of ears. She takes good care of me and makes sure I take all of my meds and there are a lot. I used to be an avid golfer – out there almost every day but I just don’t have the strength to swing a club now so that is something that has been taken away from me. I have also been an avid gardener but my wife and I do it together now and hope for the best. I just have to be patient and take my time, taking the time to rest. Lots of fatigue. This is a horrible disease and everything needs to be done to find a cure. I know that it won’t be in my lifetime but there will be many more dying from this disease before there is a cure.

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