Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

20 February 2012

Mesothelioma - A Personal Testimony

The recent conviction of two directors of the asbestos company Eternit by a court in Turin has a great deal of personal meaning.

My companion, Adon, died on 1 April 2009 from mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura) caused by exposure to asbestos.  He believed he had been exposed to the substance nearly 40 years ago while working in a factory in Belgium.  He was diagnosed with the disease in July 2008, after two months of investigations, including invasive procedures.  Shortness of breath while climbing stairs led him to consult his generalist in May who mentioned a possible diagnosis of mesothelioma.  

At the time of the definitive diagnosis, we felt we could not get through this on our own.  We needed friends, family, sound advice, support, and especially the opportunity to share experiences.  We were met with a culture of silence from medical personnel and the Swiss Cancer League.  No one could or would put us in touch with others, including family members of persons diagnosed with mesothelioma.  By the time I started sharing my thoughts on the Internet cancer forum, Adon was within days of dying.  Just a few persons helped us:  the compassionate surgical team;  the palliative care nurse at the Cancer League;  and a lady in the United States whose husband Steve had been diagnosed with the same cancer several months after Adon’s diagnosis;  he died in July 2009 after complications from radiotherapy.  Steve’s father had been exposed to asbestos in a factory in England.  Each evening, he would return home with his clothes covered in dust.  Both his son, Steve, and his wife were diagnosed with mesothelioma around the same time, nearly 40 years later.