Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Dreaded "C" Word

In this day and age it seems like there are numerous cases of cancer of varying kinds being discovered with increasing frequency. Though we are often saddened by the number of people who are affected by this ravaging illness, it isn't until cancer strikes one of our own that we take a personal interest. For me, cancer was that dreaded "c" word that had taken the lives of distant aunts and uncles. Then several years ago it claimed the life of one of my grandmothers, striking a more personal blow. Since that time, I have stood helplessly by as others, just as near and dear to my heart, have struggled bravely against this debilitating disease. As mentioned, it comes in a variety of forms, targeting different part of the body. All of it is nasty and heartbreaking.

Some win their battle against it--I've known friends who courageously underwent painful surgical procedures, and then endured the supreme discomfort of chemo and radiation, and have successfully gone on with their lives. There are family members who have also faced this harrowing gauntlet and come out the other side, cancer-free. In recent days, my mother's sister struggled through this process and is currently recuperating at home under the care of loved ones. We've been amazed at her tenacity and applaud her determined spirit. 

Then there are others who fought just as bravely, like one of my sister-in-laws. She fought harder than anyone I know against tremendous odds, doing daily battle with glioblastoma--a vicious form of brain cancer. Though her attitude remained positive right up until the end, she lost the final battle. She had lasted longer than most--living a year after the initial diagnosis. We lost her in February of 2013. Her courageous example holds a tender place in all of our hearts.

A few days ago, I was asked to blog about another kind of cancer, mesothelioma. I was hesitant, at first, but then decided that if it would help others who are facing this kind of illness, or maybe even provide information that would prevent people from suffering from this disease, it would be worth it to share some details. 

Not long ago, the father of a good friend, passed from this mortal existence from this form of cancer. We suspect it may have also had something to do with the premature death of my father-in-law. As most of you know, this type of cancer is preventable. It is caused from exposure to asbestos, which used to be utilized as a form of insulation. It was found in industrial work places, some homes, and older buildings. It was also used to build ships, in railroad infrastructure, and in power plants. 

The reason it is so hard to treat, is that it is a very durable product and once someone's lungs become contaminated, it causes untold damage. It often lodges in the outer lining of the lungs, also called the mesothelium. Workers exposed to asbestos had no idea at the time that they were breathing in these damaging fibers. And they weren't the only victims. Often their spouses and children were exposed when these workers returned home; the fibers were on their clothing, hair, and person. 

Here is a link to an extensive list of items that were contaminated by asbestos: Asbestos Products 

Fortunately, the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission took a stand against the production of asbestos in 1989, regulating this dangerous product. Sadly, for many people, the damage was already done. But the good news is that there is treatment available  (Mesothelioma Treatment ) and people are winning the fight against this disease. ( Mesothelioma Survivor

Here are the symptoms to watch for: lower back pain, side chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, fever, weight loss, or fatigue. The disease is characterized by a lengthy latency period--the average length of time between exposure and the development of the cancer is often 35-40 years.  The scary thing is by the time this illness is diagnosed, it's often in a progressed state. You can read more about that on this link: 
( Mesothelioma Symptoms ).

So just a heads up--if you suspect that you, or someone you love may have been exposed to asbestos, go get things checked out. It may just save your life, or the life of someone you love.

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