I just found out that I have mesothelioma cancer. I do not understand, how can this be? According to my doctor, the cause for my cancer was exposure to asbestos. I told my doctor that I did not understand where I had encountered such substance. He then asked me, what I did for a living and I responded by saying that I had been a construction worker all my life. He explained to me carefully that it was evident that the exposure to asbestos came from the construction environment. By inhaling asbestos dust, the substance was able to enter my body and penetrate the pleura or membrane of the lungs. I told him that I would have never imagined of having cancer because I had never had any symptoms until now and I had been working in construction for 25 years. The doctor said that it was normal for this cancer to not show symptoms right away in the beginning. At this point, the doctor said that I had only one year left to live. The only options that I had for treatment were chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. He asked me to pick, but if I was not ready at this point, instead I should go out and find out about each one and then come back with a final decision.
After I left the doctor, I felt like the world was coming to an end for me. I could not believe that it was a matter of time until I died. What had I done to deserve this? I felt like there was no more hope for me and that I should just accept this harsh reality. I went home that afternoon to think. I sat down and thought and thought about what the doctor had told me for hours. I was wondering whether chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery were the only options I had. Was the doctor right? I mean like there had to be something else beyond these treatments, something else that could prolong my life. After I thought about it, I decided to do some research on the internet about the type of cancer that I had and treatments that were available for it.
While researching, I came to this page that explained the different types of treatments for mesothelioma. There was of coarse the usual, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, but there was also one other one that the doctor did not mention and instantly captured my attention. This new treatment was called gene therapy. With gene therapy, a person is injected a non-infectious virus that will cause the cancer cells to produce a protein that will kill them. After the new protein is produced, the procedure is followed up by chemotherapeutic medication. The chemotherapeutic medication would then eliminate the cancer cells because they would be more vulnerable.
In contrast, chemotherapy would not have been a great choice because there were too many side effects to it. Radiation was also not good because it only provided short-term symptom relief and surgery would not work for me because my cancer was not diagnosed in the beginning stages. For surgery to work and produce great results, the cancer had to have been diagnosed in its beginning stages. At this point, gene therapy seemed like my best choice, but I still could not make my final decision without consulting a trusted and wise old friend.
The next day, I went to visit my closest friend, whom I had known since childhood. I had always gone to this friend for advice even when I was caught in the tightest situations where I saw no escape. My friend had been with me through thick and thin. I explained to him my circumstances and the only options that I had. He told me first that he felt really sorry for me and that if there was something that I needed that I could count on him. I thanked him for all the support that he had given me. Then he told me of a past experience that he had where he suffered from an awful sickness called influenza. He was sick for many months without getting better. He said that he was about to give up fighting because he saw no hope. He told me that he would always take his medication, but that it was not sufficient enough to help him get better. It was not until he changed his diet that he started seeing results. He told me that it was the combination of both medication and a healthy diet that caused him to get better. Eating healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits are very important for a person’s immune system to combat any diseases or sicknesses. He told me that fruits and vegetables carry antioxidants that enhance the immune system to fight against harmful bacteria and viruses. Was that the key ingredient to help me fight this cancer? Was as simple as maintaining a healthy diet the answer? I felt like my friend had provided me with very valuable information. It was finally clear what I needed to do. I was going to go back to my doctor and tell him what I had discovered.
A couple days later, my doctor welcomed me with a warm welcome. He asked me if I had made a decision about a treatment. I replied by saying, “yes”. I was sure now of what I wanted to do. I also told him that I found out about another treatment that he did not mention before through some research that I had done. He asked me what that treatment was and I told him that it was gene therapy. He said that he was surprised that I had learned about gene therapy and that he was very intrigued by it. I also told him that I was not only going to have that as my only treatment. The other part of my treatment would be to start living a healthier life by eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. I walked out from the doctor’s office with hope, aspiration and more wanting to live. I knew that what I had decided was the right choice. I had listened to my heart and followed what it told me to do. It was the beginning of a new life for me.
The one year that the doctor said that I had left passed by. The new lifestyle that I was living enabled me to live longer. I was able to prolong my life span when it seemed like it was impossible. Right now, I am still alive and fighting strong against this cancer. I will never quit and give up because I know that God is the only one that can make that decision so until then I will stay standing and fight until that end comes.
By: Hernandez, Giselle