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Beating the odds with mesothelioma

Asbestos and mesothelioma are probably two things that most people, if they are aware of it at all, think of it as a problem for 70-year-old naval yard workers from Mare Island or Long Beach. As with many calamities, one woman in Minnesota found out that unfortunately, the reach of mesothelioma is much broader than that. It is not just a disease of old men.

So, how does a 36-year-old, newly minted mother, with a baby weeks old, contract a deadly cancer like mesothelioma from asbestos that has been banned almost half of her lifetime? One could say it was hereditary, because the suspicion is she got the disease from her father. But not genetically, as mesothelioma is not transmitted by genetics. You see, her father worked in the construction industry, and she was probably exposed to asbestos-laden dust on his clothing as a small child, when he returned from work each day.

She began treatment, and had an extrapleural pneumonectomy, "which involves removing the affected lung along with the lining of the chest (pleura), portions of the covering of the heart (pericardium), and the diaphragm."

With a new baby girl, she was convinced to do whatever was necessary to buy her as much time as possible. She notes without treatment, she might have only lived 15 months. She has now lived seven years and is cancer free at this writing.

But she understands how precious her life is, and how the three words "you have cancer" changed everything. She is lucky, as many mesothelioma patients may live a few years at most after their diagnosis.

Source: Bangor Daily News, "What is Mesothelioma?" Diane Atwood, April 3, 2013

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