Monday, July 14, 2014

Asbestos, mesothelioma, and rose-colored glasses

This post is dedicated to my friend, Lorraine Jamrom, who lost her battle against mesothelioma at the tender age of 52. Her daughter, Bobbie, is a longtime member of the Green Grandma community.

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Asbestos has been in the news recently due to the recent Capitol Building scare. It seems that, during asbestos removal (abatement) from the building, there was a potential release. So, what's the big deal and why is it a threat to those working in the building?

When I bought my house in 1991, I knew it had an asbestos roof that would eventually have to be replaced. After serving the house well for nearly 50 years, the time came for us to get a new roof. What we didn't understand was how much of a hassle that was going to be. It seems you can't just remove an asbestos roof and toss it in a dumpster. Nope. The guys working on the roof had to wear special protective uniforms and then the material, including their uniforms, had to be buried in a special place in Clinton, PA with folks from the government observing. Yeah, it was that big of a deal. 

The asbestos roof in and of itself was not a problem. But once asbestos is broken up and the particles are released into the air, there is a huge problem. People exposed to these particles are at a risk for a life-threatening cancer called mesothelioma. Even if those airborne particles land on someone's clothing, others can be affected through second-hand asbestos exposure by simply touching the clothing. While men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than women, more and more women are becoming victims through second-hand exposure. U.S. veterans are especially vulnerable, accounting for nearly one-third of the cases throughout the country. 

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

The thing is, symptoms may not even appear until 30 to 60 years after the initial exposure. That fact is a bit scary to me because, as I wrote about in an earlier post, I grew up two blocks away from an asbestos plant in Manheim, PA. My mother worked in the office and other family members worked in the plant itself. Some succumbed to what we called, "asbestosis," a lung cancer that killed them. 

My best friend and I spent countless hours playing in the creek that ran alongside the asbestos plant. We grew up breathing the asbestos-tainted air. While we're both fine now, it does make me wonder what is ahead.

Asbestos poses the greatest risk when it becomes worn or damaged, causing the fibers to flake off and become airborne. It can be found in many older homes, schools, factories, commercial buildings, and apparently, the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The fact is that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. None. And mesothelioma disguises itself as a whole slew of other respiratory ailments, so it's often undiagnosed until it is too late. Nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with this deadly cancer annually and are given an average of 10 months to live. Ten months! And yet, asbestos is still not banned in the U.S. Why?

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

During the month of July, concerned people like me are trying to get the word out and raise awareness of this deadly, yet preventable, disease. Won't you help us by sharing this post? Pin it. Tweet it. FB it.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance website has tons of valuable information about asbestos and what exposure can mean for you and your family. Ignorance is not bliss, my friends. But there is hope. It's that very hope that carried Heather Von St. James from a grim prognosis of 15 months, to that of being a mesothelioma survivor eight years later! Hear about this brave woman's battle by watching the YouTube video below. Heather and her husband, Cameron, have a message of hope and they want everyone to not only hear it, but to embrace it.

"Don't take a death sentence as a diagnosis. There is hope."  ~ Heather Von St. James

So watch the video and then tell me, had you ever heard of mesothelioma before? If so, why? Has mesothelioma affected someone you love? Let's spread the word, folks. And the word is HOPE.

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