Posted on July 2, 2014

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 Heather, 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.

Heather“Mesotherlioma Does Not Discriminate” – Heather’s Story

Name: Heather

State: California

Date of Birth: 13-DEC-1968

Date of Diagnosis: 23-FEB-2010

Diagnosis: Mesothelioma

How has asbestos changed your life? 

On February 23, 2010, my life was forever changed. I was diagnosed with mesothelioma. My doctor told me there was no cure and I was given 9-18 months to live. The words will forever be etched in my memory. After many days of feeling helpless, hopeless and disbelief, I decided to take control of this deadly disease. It was not going to control me .I was not going down without a fight. I researched every ounce of info I could find in relation to treatment options. I sought out two opinions and decided on having an EPP (extra pleural pneumonectomy) with Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston .After my initial orientation in Boston, a woman pulled me aside and said “Honey, where on earth did you get this disease? I saw you walk in and kept expecting an older family member of yours to be joining you who was the patient. You are too young to have this awful disease.” I was 41 at the time. The sad reality is that whether your in your 30’s, 40’s or 70’s, we are all too young to be fighting this deadly disease which we know can be prevented. I spent 6 weeks in Boston after my surgery. It took me away from my children, my family, my job, my everyday life. I have had two recurrences since then with two chest wall resections. Most recently I underwent 5 rounds of chemo. I have tumors now that, because of their location, I am not a candidate for surgery. I currently am on a clinical trial and my disease status is stable. I have fought long and hard to rid this disease from my body. I have had many days where it has taken away my strength and energy. I had an amazing career as a registered nurse which I loved. Because of the physical demands that go along with being an RN, I am no longer able to work. Not only does this disease affect you physically, but the psychological and emotional toll can be equally as hard. The feelings of fear and anxiety can at times be paralyzing. The “what ifs” can be all consuming. I have watched this disease emotionally break down my husband, leaving him feeling helpless and defeated. This disease does not discriminate. It is mean and cruel and leaves a path of destruction wherever it rears its ugly head.

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