My name is Virgil and I was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I tell my story about my personal struggle with this disease and how I came to have it because I want to help others. If just one person hears my story and avoids getting sick by heeding my warnings, then it has been worth it to share. Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and I wish that no one else had to suffer through it as I have.
While mesothelioma is not very common, my story is also not the only one. Like many other people with this disease, I unknowingly spend my career around asbestos and paid the price later. Mesothelioma is a type of aggressive cancer that attacks the tissue lining the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is most often caused by inhaling fibers of asbestos.
My story with asbestos began with my very first job in high school. I got a job in demolition so I could start earning an income in my small hometown of Williamson, West Virginia. What I didn’t know at the time was that older buildings are often filled with asbestos. As I tore down walls, removed insulation, and peeled back flooring and siding, I was breathing in fibers of the asbestos I was disturbing.
From demolition I moved up to more skilled work as a mechanic. Some of the jobs I did working with cars also involved asbestos. It used to be used in the linings of hoods to protect against heat and fire and at one job my role was to tear these out and replace them with new hood liners. I also worked on other car parts that involved asbestos, like brakes and clutches. In taking these out, repairing them and replacing them, I again exposed myself to asbestos and its dangers.
Like so many others who worked around asbestos, I got sick later. It was only in my 50s that I found out I had mesothelioma, this incurable cancer. I have the pleural form, which is a cancer that started in the tissue around my lungs. The asbestos I inhaled lodged there and caused damage that led to the growth of tumors. It has now spread to other areas, including my lymph nodes.
This means I am not a good candidate for surgery, the type of treatment that provides the best hope of eliminating tumors. Instead I hope to go through rounds of chemotherapy that will reduce my symptoms and maybe extend my life a little longer.
Because of the time I spent around asbestos, I now have a death sentence hanging over me. What’s even worse is that my symptoms are pretty debilitating. I have trouble breathing; I need an oxygen tank to be active at all; and mostly I can’t do the things I used to do.
I hope that by sharing this story, that more people will become aware of the dangers of asbestos and will avoid getting sick. The more people hear the truth about this terrible disease, the more they will understand what it takes to prevent it. I hope that anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to asbestos will be proactive. Know the symptoms of mesothelioma and insist on getting screened for it. The earlier this disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the more hope a victim will have.
This is a guest post from Mr. Anderson who requested that I publish and share his story to spread the word about mesothelioma.