A Minnesota woman recently celebrated the ninth anniversary of her surgery to combat mesothelioma. After her diagnosis in 2005, she had her left lung, pericardium, half of her diaphragm, a rib and several lymph nodes removed. That surgery was followed by extensive chemotherapy treatment. Nine years later, she is one of a small number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma who has survived for an extended period. Her story is illustrative of the severe nature of the illness and the terrible impact that asbestos has on individuals and families.
A person diagnosed with mesothelioma generally has a one to two year life expectancy. Ten years ago, people diagnosed with mesothelioma were given a two-percent chance of surviving for five years. Improvements in surgical technique and chemotherapy drugs have increased the five-year survival rate to roughly 20 percent. The prognosis is still grim, however, and even survivors are facing a harsh treatment regimen and a greatly altered lifestyle.
The Minnesota woman was a victim of second-hand exposure to asbestos. Her father was exposed to asbestos during the course of his work and she was exposed to the asbestos that clung to his work clothes. Asbestos has the power to wreak havoc on families in ways that few other substances can match. Cases like hers are not particularly rare. Asbestos exposure is a problem that has not gone away despite restrictions on the use of the substance.
Stories of survival bring hope and represent the best case scenario for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. Through continuing research, we can hope that long-term survival will become the norm, rather than the exception.
Source: Star Tribune, “Mesothelioma survivor throws party of home, support,” by Pat Pheifer, 9 February 2015