Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the lungs, heart and abdomen, if one is exposed to asbestos. It never occurred to me how deadly these particles could be or how it invaded my family for the last twenty years. In fact, my father had died of Mesothelioma, which attacked him harshly due to his low immune system. He died two year ago, due to his exposure of asbestos in his job as a construction laborer. I still remember how he would come from home, dusted in cement and dirt and tiredly speak of his day. I would listen with excitement, for I was a child and found his day adventurous, compared to mine which was simply school and play. He would speak of the dangers and challenges he would face. It all seemed so unreal and as if it were an action story. The boulders, the buildings and the explosives were my favorite part. I sat in my hello kitty pajamas as he retold his day as a construction laborer.
He would simply say “My Adelina, if only you were able to see the size of the building we had to bring down today.”
Listening, as I pictured a tall empty building with peeling paint and broken windows, while the big bulldozers hummed and ready to destroy. He would continue his story with a glimmer in his eyes “We had to use big power tools to bring it down of course. With big machines that made such loud noise, that everyone around would stop and stare.”
He would laugh hoarsely, every time I asked him questions or more details in his story. Afterwards, he would tickle me until he became tired and coughed to catch his breath. Then my mom would pop her head from the kitchen and tell my father to stop acting childish.
I became older, and soon lost interest in his job. My father on the other hand, became more tired and worn. He would routinely feel ill and constantly cough. My father was a stubborn man, therefore, resisted seeing a doctor. He became thinner, older and tired. It was painful to see a forty five year old man, look sickly and older.
Thinking of my father, brought memories of the day he became hospitalized. Unfortunately, his job as a construction worker had drastically exposed him to asbestos. Dr. Larson had done some analysis to my father, as he explained that he had inhaled asbestos causing them to align and trap themselves into his lungs. Over the years they built up, as they divided rapidly into his cells. In fact, the majority of his organs became contaminated with the cancer causing him a painful death. However, I remember the nurses coming in and out of the pale room and my father smiling all he could. It was such an inspiration of how he did not allow the cancer to destroy his humor. Although it was painful to laugh, when he was on the verge of death. My family routinely visited him and not once did I see my father cry. He did not appeared to be afraid and knew when it was his time. He was born strong and died strong. My stomached ached at the thought of his final day. His thin pale body, connected to cords and machines. I didn’t recognize him due to his nakedness, as he was covered in thin sheets that pressed against his fragileness. He would constantly tell me and my siblings,
“Mi princesesa’s Adelina, Maria…Y mis barones, Noe, Jose…never forget that you four have been my most precious tesoro’s de dios. God has gifted me with the best children and has given me the opportunity-
He smiled, speaking through his heart, while he choked between words,
–to see you all grow and has allowed me to raise and love you all…just remember I will listen to your prayers, be at your side and speak to you through the wind, the breeze will be my voice. I left a footprint in your heart, that will blossom into a flower and become a memory”
As I thought of my father, Dr. Larson swiftly strides into his office holding my analysis. I sat in a burgundy leather chair, feeling knots in my stomach that got even tighter as the doctor tried to find my gaze. I was nervous and too afraid to see his expression or to listen.
“Adelina, we had finally completed your X-Rays, CAT and MRI Scan and unfortunately we still are not certain where the cancer is multiplying and dividing. Therefore, we still need to complete a biopsy to confirm the Mesothelioma. How have you been feeling for the past few months?”
As I tried to process this information, I felt as if the room started to spin, I reply chokingly
“Well I have been feeling lots of nausea, some abdominal pain or sometimes my chest.”
Concerned, Dr. Larson asked “are you still encountering shortness of breath?”
“Yes, sometimes it becomes so difficult to play sports or go up stairs…but they come and go”
“Well your x-rays did show a minor pleural effusion on your chest wall. Also, there were some suspicious tumors and your lymph nodes are beginning to swell. However, we still don’t quite know where the major section of the cancer is. So can you come in about next week for a biopsy—
As he noticed my disappointed expression he quickly adds “Adelina don’t be discouraged, your symptoms seem to be on their first stages. It is possible that you still may have a chance for survival.”
I respond in wonderment “but how long is that doctor? What if it becomes worse?”
“look all I can tell you is to not lose hope, in fact I will give you a list of Mesothelioma survivors that can become some sort of inspiration for you.”
His words carried a clam sensibility, filled with care, which soothed the knots in my stomach. “here are the names of survivors that have outlived this. I know that your father had died of Mesothelioma harshly but it’s because he didn’t receive medical attention in time. There are a variety of treatments that can help you but we will decide after your biopsy. I’ll go and schedule your next appointment with a biopsy specialist.”
Dr. Larson words brought a deep ache into my stomach, as I remembered my father.
I scanned down the list of survivors, Paul Kraus and James Rhio O’Connor, thinking of my next step to search the web.
Later in the evening, I pulled out my laptop from my school bag and began to search the web. I stayed in my college dorm, sitting in an arm chair, while the three purple and wooden bunk beds hovered around me. My dorm was decorated of posters, pictures and boards filled with tasks and calendars. For hours I researched Mesothelioma, treatments and its survivors. Web page after web page, I gained hope once again. My roommates from Fresno State would constantly walk in and out asking me to chill with them. As much as I loved my friends and wanted to be with them, it was my priority to obtain as much knowledge possible on Mesothelioma. I researched Paul Kraus and James Rhio O’Connor, who were brave men who fought against their cancer and lived their lives to the fullest. Paul Kraus continued with his daily life, while doing what he loves best, writing. James Rhio O’Connor as well continued to fight against his cancer and outlived it more than six years. He completed his goal, to outlive his prognosis from months to years and wrote a book “They Said Months, I chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.” My next step was to follow into his footsteps and gain as many years as possible. It became my goal to live and love, while smiling. In fact, I made a list of the the 100 things I want to complete before I die. My list of goals included my options of treatments required, helping others and most of all exploring life. I viewed my prognosis as a blessing from god. God has given me the opportunity to decide whether I would wish for a positive or negative ending. Any given day, month or year, I will thank and live to the fullest. After the biopsy, my life is in God’s hands; therefore, I will outlive my prognosis by altering my lifestyle, and figuring ways to eliminate the asbestos, naturally. I was born in nature and I will live until nature has decided to collect my physical shell and soul. For those who I love, I will carry on my father’s words “I will listen to your prayers, be at your side and always speak to you through the wind, the breeze will be my voice. I left a footprint in your heart, that will bloom into a flower and become a memory.”
By: Lemus, Alma