Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Guest post: Katherine Keys about mesothelioma cancer caused by asbestos exposure

I did not know that South Africa has still such a high rate of mesothelioma cases, and that we are still being exposed to asbestos?

This guest post comes from Katherine from America. I love her positive attitude and her resilience!

My name is Katherine Keys and I have been fighting mesothelioma cancer for the past 9 years. If you don’t know, mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

People can be exposed to asbestos in many ways. My exposure was a result of asbestos being spread into the air when the office I was working at was remodeled. Most of the companies who manufactured asbestos products throughout the 1900’s were aware of the dangers for many years but hid the information from the public who were deemed as "expendable" so that they could continue to make their money. Most buildings all over the world that were built before the 1980's still contain asbestos because of it's fire resistant characteristics. South Africa actually has the highest rate of mesothelioma cases with an average of 200 per year.

When I was first diagnosed I thought I had the flu. I was prescribed medication and painkillers but the pain persisted. When the pain was too much to take, I went to the ER, it was there that I discovered I had cancer. I was 49 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage 1 pleural Mesothelioma.

For treatment, I had my right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, I began radiation treatments. I had treatments five times per week for several months. Although I had been scheduled for chemotherapy treatments, I was relieved to learn that I didn’t have to have them.

Upon completing my treatments, I attended my regular scheduled follow-up appointments. At first, they were monthly, then every two months, three months, six months…and now annually. My follow-up appointments typically consistent of blood tests, a PET scan, x-rays and other tests to confirm that I am still cancer-free.

Unfortunately, all of this comes with a hefty price.

Thankfully, I discovered MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org. Their Patients Advocates informed me about trusts that the government has set up for people suffering from asbestos related cancers. These same trusts have helped me afford my medical bills. Without them I would have been lost. It also relieves some of the burden of family members, as you would expect. Their Patients Advocates not only helped me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely care about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma.

Today, I feel blessed to be able to spend time with my children and share my story with other people living with mesothelioma. While I have been through a lot and I am still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed, I see every day as a gift. I hope my story brings resilience and positivity to people living with mesothelioma.


Related: A story of cancer survival: How I made it as a new mother

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