A few weeks ago we were contacted by Heather Von St. James, a mum who against all odds survived mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer linked to exposure to asbestos.
According to Abestos.com, the United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries outlawed its use. People the most affected by the disease are the ones who have worked in the shipbuilding or building industries. Mesothelioma affects people who have been in either primary or secondary contact with asbestos. While asbestos use in the UK in now banned, any structures erected or renovated prior to 2000 are likely to contain asbestos. The UK government provides some useful links on how to deal with asbestos in your home here.
Asbestos is still not banned in the US. Heather Von St. James has made it her mission to spread awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos. Here is her story:
“At age 36, just 3 ½ months after giving birth to my first and only daughter, Lily, I was given 15 months to live. It was a diagnosis that absolutely shattered my once perfect world with my brand new baby.
In November 2005, I was diagnosed with a rare, deadly cancer. It was malignant pleural mesothelioma. The more I researched this disease, the more hopeless I became. I quickly found out that mesothelioma kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis, and here I was with a brand new baby. The thought of leaving her and my husband Cameron alone in this world was unbearable. After undergoing various tests, it was determined that I was a candidate for a new type of surgery known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This surgery required the removal of the affected lung, half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart. We knew the surgery was risky since it was so new, but like any mother would, I decided that I would do anything it took to continue to be there for Lily.
The surgery was in Feb. 2006 in Boston. It was extremely hard being away from Lily during that time but I knew that what I was doing was going to make it possible for me to watch her grow up. The surgery was successful, it was a grueling and hard recovery, but thankfully I’m still here 8 years later and cancer free.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. I was exposed to asbestos second hand through my father’s work clothes and developed mesothelioma years later. My father worked in construction while I was growing up and unknowingly brought asbestos fibers home on his jacket- the same jacket that I would wear outside to play and feed the rabbits. The rate of second hand exposure in mesothelioma patients is rapidly growing, and sadly, asbestos is still not banned in the US!
Asbestos can still be found in older homes, schools and in the workplace. Over 30 million pounds of this deadly substance is still used each year in the United States. April 1-7 is Asbestos Awareness Week and I’ve made it my mission to spread awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos. I hope you’ll join me!
From awareness grows hope. Each voice could save a life.”
Learn more here and help Heather share her story.