Symptoms and Diagnosis : In July 1998, I had a heavy bronchial type
cough. My doctor said that if the cough has not gone away completely to
go see him. At that time, gave me a chest radiograph, which showed
pleural thickening on my right lung. I was sent to a pulmonologist who in
turn sent me to a thoracic surgeon for a biopsy in the chest open. It 's
been three months since I first went to my GP with a cough when I was
diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer Oct. 23.
I have been told many times as they do not fit the profile, generally men
in there 60s and 70s who have worked in asbestos related industries. But
I had and I was told there was nothing that could be done as mesothelioma
is incurable and always fatal.
Many of us wonder what we would do if he said he had a terminal illness.
It had crossed my mind in the past, especially when I had heard of people
I know, that was devastating news. Of course, I could not imagine what it
would be going through - but now I can.
My first reaction was disbelief. I told the surgeon, "How can you tell me
that I am dying? I do not feel bad." To which he replied: "You soon
will." And there were tears. I think it was harder for my family than it
was on me. I think they felt powerless and full of despair.
The first three days after diagnosis were the worst. I cried forever. I
did not eat. Then the third day I received my first ray of hope.
Hope to find and help
My sister and two friends had begun to run on the Internet looking for
information on mesothelioma. One of the women found the Web mesothelioma.
After a conversation of 20 minutes the clouds began to clear away.
I was encouraged to pursue a cure or treatment. I was told that there are
survivors of this disease and people living with it. I was advised to
examine the various research that is happening.
This conversation gave me what no one else had - and I was HOPE-
supported. I was also hungry, all of a sudden, and I hid in a hearty meal
of steak and onions, potatoes, peas and carrots.
From then on, I wanted information as I could get - the latest up-to-date
information. Not having a computer, I relied totally on my sister,
Malveen, and the two friends, Judith and Rosemary. They found all kinds
of information and I spent part of the day sifting through the papers,
contacting physicians, researchers and others diagnosed with the disease.
I became more conscious, more power I felt. Sure, there were still a lot
of tears and days when I felt that I never had any intention of finding
The choice of a physician
Finally, after searching, I decided I wanted the doctor to try and cure
me was Dr. David Sugarbaker, chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and
Women 's Hospital in Boston. I talked to him on the phone at the end of
November. He told me about a new protocol that had just begun and invited
me to come to Boston for an evaluation and see if I meet the criteria for
this trial. The appointment was for January 5, 1999 - about 2 ½ months
I was very nervous while sitting in the waiting room that Tuesday. Know
the extent to which most of the criteria. My heart was strong, my blood
was good, all my other organs were normal, I did not have chronic
diseases or disorders - but did not know if I was in stage I or if I was
there, that would make me ineligible for this trial particular.
Then a miracle. Dr. Sugarbaker is a staff came to tell me that a man who
was to be operated on Thursday could not because his disease had
progressed too far. Others on the waiting list could not in Boston in
time for this opening the operating room. So they offered no place for
me! Dr. Sugarbaker had looked on my reports, MRI, etc. and I am! I felt
like I won the lottery. I met with the doctor and spent the rest of the
day doing all the hospital pre-op needs.
The operation is called an extra-pleural pneumonectomy followed by a
washing intraoperative heated. My pleura, lung, diaphragm, and
pericardium were removed. Then it was washed for one hour with cisplatin
call drug that has been heated up to 4 degrees above the temperature of
the body. A new pericardium and diaphragm were reconstructed with gortex
before I was stitched 5 hours and a half later.
This operation was a very heavy and there is a long recovery period. I
know you are not out of trouble - that there may be microscopic
mesothelioma cells that have not been eliminated and have begun to divide
But you can be sure that nothing similar is happening in their body, or
when leaving the house this morning they'll be back tonight?
What I know is that my prognosis is infinitely better than it was at the
beginning, which was 0%. Every week I noticed myself getting stronger. My
strength is increasing. A look at me you'd never know I had surgery. The
14 ½ "incision is fading. A doctor told me that I would be able to wear a
bikini. This is great news because I've never worn one before! Dr.
Sugarbaker told me that I will be able to go scuba diving but, "wait six
I am a very lucky woman and truly blessed. The road has been made much
easier with the strength of my family. My friends, communities, strangers
and new friends helped and encouraged me.
I found knowledge was a big factor in dealing with my illness. But the
hope was the biggest inspiration!
BOB HARTHCOCK of Houston, Texas, 1999
A hard worker and Officer
From 1952 to 1982, Bob worked at the steel ARMCO in Houston, the largest
steel plant west of the Mississippi. During these 30 years, Bob and his
wife Jean raised three children, who are now married with children of
their own. Bob has worked hard during those years. He started as a help
and has made its way also a duty on the night shift for nine years and,
as a step-up head over the weekend. And yet still made time to coach
Little League is for her children every year. He received merit increases
each year and eventually became chief of maintenance responsible for
several hundred men.
Bob believes that the responsible management Harthcock meant hands-on
management. Hands-on management means you arrive at work at 5:30 in the
morning to meet with the night shift before going home. It meant walking
9 miles a day to ensure that every worker was doing his job and help out
if needed. Ironically, it was Bob Harthcock strong work ethic and hands-
on management that exposed to asbestos fibers that have led to this
The exposure and the disease
Harthcock Bob had no idea that the earth breathing asbestos fibers in
their daily lives as part of his work, was actually a time bomb that will
one day cause the deadly cancer mesothelioma. He had no earthly idea that
the white powdery substance that has brought home his working clothes
would have endangered his family. He had no idea that when Jean shook his
clothes before doing the laundry, this would one day make her suffer from
asbestosis and lose 40% of his lung diffusing capacity.
Coping and Surviving
Bob and Jean are people that anyone would be proud to have as neighbors.
They are totally devoted to one another, for others and for their faith.
They made the best of their situation.
Over the past 10 years have been full-time volunteers, not earning any
money and even paying their own costs. They traveled throughout Texas and
helping to build houses for the homeless and the churches for the poor of
Mexico. They have volunteered in hospitals and ambulances as paramedics.
They have taught courses in English and the Bible, and helped prepare
food for the poor in Mexico and Central America, and the Indians in New
Like Bob, many people with this disease are told that survive from 6 to 8
months after diagnosis. Bob has been breaking records with a survival at
seven years since 1999. The doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in
Houston are puzzled. Bob, who is a religious man told them "test
source : http://www.mesotheliomaweb.org/mesothelioma/survival-rate-