25 Apr, 2014 at 10:00 am | Written by: Jen Sill
We are so happy and honored to share Heather’s story. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 1/2 months after her first and only child Lily was born. Heather was given 15 months to live. Miraculously, she beat the odds and is alive to share her story 8 years later…
Tell me about that moment – when the doctor told you about the cancer.
Disbelief, terror. Like standing on the edge of a cliff and feeling like I was going to fall off into the abyss. Then after the first waves of that passed over me, a quiet resolve settled in. Okay, so I have cancer, tell me what need to do to fight it, and I was willing to do pretty much anything.
How long were you expected to live?
If did nothing, I would have lived maybe 15 months, with just chemo and radiation, it extended it to 5 years, surgery was the best option for me. I’m still here, 8 years later,
How much longer have you lived?
8 years, 2 months and 20 days sine my surgery
What was your husband’s reaction?
The first words from his mouth were: “oh, this is bad” Then anger. Loads of anger. He was so very angry about the diagnosis and the fact that life threw us this curve ball. I’m proud to say that he was able to overcome that and become much more supportive.
What caused your cancer?
Asbestos exposure as a child. My dad was a laborer for a construction company, and did a lot of drywall clean up and demolition in the early days, and asbestos was everywhere in those construction materials. Drywall mud, speckling, insulation, just to name a few. He would come home from work with his clothes all dusty from work. I would wear his coat to do my outside chores, because I didn’t want to get my own coat dirty. I would wear it to feed my rabbits, get the mail, that sort of thing.
How can we help prevent this type of cancer?
Prevent exposure to asbestos is the only way. Know where asbestos might be lurking. Before embarking on any home improvement projects in homes built before 1980, check to see if asbestos is present in things such as floor tile, ceiling tiles, or even insulation in the attic. Call your representatives and senators; tell them that asbestos needs to be banned.
What should people know/do right now to protect themselves?
If you suspect asbestos is present in your home, have it tested by a certified professional and don’t touch it. Asbestos is dangerous when it is friable, or when its disturbed, it is when the particles get airborne is when the danger is. You can go to Asbestosdiseaseawareness.org for more information.
What if their father worked with asbestos (like yours did) when they were young? Should they be checked?
It is good to have the info in the back of your mind. Unfortunately, there is no early screening test to see if you have been exposed or might have it. Pay attention to your body, and if things creep up like an unexplained dry cough, have it checked and tell the doctor about the asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is not banned in the US, yet it’s the only known cause of mesothelioma. I was exposed to asbestos through my fathers work jacket when I was just a little girl; my diagnosis came about 30 years later. Once diagnosed, most patients die within 2 years. I am one of few survivors who openly share their story and work to spread awareness regarding the dangers of asbestos. Here is a link to my site. Or visit my Facebook page.
Here’s a video about her story: