If you are like most Americans who only know of mesothelioma from daytime television advertisements, you’re certainly not alone. In a quick poll of my Facebook friends, I found the actual number of people with a solid understanding of the deadly asbestos-related cancer could be counted on my fingers.
In fact, several friends reminisced about the days they stayed home from school sick only to sit on the couch and binge watch “America’s Next Top Model” while a mesothelioma commercial appeared during every other commercial break.
Nobody really thought about what those commercials meant, and more importantly, whom those commercials were for: Cancer patients.
Of course, I graduated from high school more years ago than I’d like to admit; perhaps times have changed. Yet a brief Twitter search of the word “mesothelioma” brought about an onslaught of displeasing tweets glorifying the deadly cancer.
One tweet: How come I never got to have mesothelioma? I want large cash settlements too!
Another: I am currently wishing I had mesothelioma broke!! #Truelife
Another: These commercials about lawsuits if you have mesothelioma. First question I ask ppl now is: do you have mesothelioma? Ya? Let’s be friends!
Once again, it’s all a joke.
But perhaps the most accurate mesothelioma-related tweet of all: 11 out of 12 people have never heard of mesothelioma except for the TV commercials.
Thankfully, mesothelioma is less common than more well-known cancers such as those of the breast or colon. An estimated 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States. That’s 3,000 people whose life will change forever when they hear the terrifying words: “You have cancer.” The fear and anxiety of their mesothelioma diagnosis will be just as real, and in that very moment, what do you think will come to mind?
Will they think of the repetitive advertisements with bright colors flashing on the TV screen? Or will they think of the memories they may never be able to make and the major life events they will miss?
We owe them something better. They deserve more than just a buzzword; they deserve an understanding.
Breaking Barriers: The Understanding of Mesothelioma
Every year, on September 26, people around the world gather to celebrate the lives of mesothelioma survivors, caregivers and those taken from us far too soon. For just one day, we reflect on the inspiring medical advancements researchers and physicians are making to change the lives of patients everywhere. That day is Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
Throughout the weeks leading up to September 26, advocates around the globe ramp up for the biggest day of mesothelioma awareness. In an attempt to make a difference, I’ve participated in numerous Twitter chats to brainstorm outreach initiatives and awareness goals with amazing influencers like Mavis Nye, an inspiring seven-year mesothelioma survivor. It is with everyone’s insight that we can improve the lives of survivors worldwide.
The fight against mesothelioma can’t stop there. Just as mesothelioma survivors are fighting for their lives every day, we all must battle the misconceptions and misunderstandings of this deadly cancer. Any way to increase education and support the mesothelioma community is a great place to start.
Recently, I took part in the aptly named iWalk4Meso virtual race sponsored by Weitz & Luxenberg. It’s all about the research when it comes to saving patients’ lives. For every Facebook post, the sponsor will donate up to $25,000 to the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
If simple things like walking and posting on Facebook can lead to a cure, then I am all for helping in any way I can. There are so many ways you can give back. Whether you join the iWalk4Meso virtual race or commit to sharing key mesothelioma facts and stats with your loved ones, you truly can make a difference.
But where do you start? One place: Understanding mesothelioma yourself.
A Short Explanation of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an aggressive, asbestos-related cancer. A diagnosis is usually paired with an unfortunately short prognosis of less than year. For many patients, they had no idea they were at risk for such a deadly disease. Chances are they were exposed to asbestos decades before, and by the time they made a doctor’s appointment for that belligerent cough they just couldn’t shake, it’s too late. The cancer has spread and treatment options are limited.
There is no cure for mesothelioma. But there is hope.
Hope in the Mesothelioma Community
Every single day, survivors are beating the odds and living months and years past their initial prognosis. They must face the unknown and fight one of the toughest battles. To each and every one of you living with this disease: You are amazing.
For every person diagnosed with mesothelioma, someone they love often steps up to take on a new role: Caregiver. Your life is now a balance of caring for someone else while maintaining your own health. There are not words to thank you for the sacrifice and opportunity you have taken. You are inspiring.
To the researchers and specialists who partnering together to push through traditional treatment barriers to create the best treatment plans for mesothelioma patients, I thank you. Medical advancements are changing the face of cancer treatment, and because of you, I am able to provide hope by sharing the latest clinical trial successes.
Each and every day, mesothelioma advocates are sharing resources with patients and campaigning on Capitol Hill. It is with your help that we are one step closer to a US ban on asbestos – a ban that should have been in place decades ago. Thank you for fighting to end this man-made asbestos disaster.
Working together, we can change the future. A cure is out there. Now, we just have to find it.
Note: This article was originally published on The Huffington Post. To read the original article, please visit here.