By: Heather Von St James
As all healthy new mothers know, raising and caring for children is one of life's most difficult and rewarding challenges. However, for mothers diagnosed with mesothelioma, the difficulties of parenting are compounded incalculably. The amount of energy needed for play, preparing meals, transporting children, not to mention cleaning and taking care of household issues is immense. In addition, with the inevitable weakness and sickness that chemotherapy causes, these tasks may prove insurmountable. Still, heroically, as a mother with a mesothelioma prognosis that is less-than-encouraging I trudged on, nurturing my family and selflessly providing all of the love, care and attention that I could physically manage.
Perhaps the cruelest part of mesothelioma is its slow, undetectable infiltration of the body's defenses. Caused by exposure to asbestos or glass particles, as many construction workers have been, the disease can take 20 to 50 years to exhibit symptoms. Women contract the disease, often times, as children as it was in my case, or through washing clothes of males that have worked around asbestos.
Anemia, fever, internal pain, blood clotting and bowel obstruction are all signs of mesothelioma, all of which present terrible obstructions to the daily duties of new mothers. Wheezing, hoarseness and coughing can all be potential indicators of the disease, signaling a buildup of fluid in the body. With such physical discomforts, bathing, feeding and even holding children can become more difficult than ever. From there, the most difficult and tragic question arises: who's to care for a caregiver in need? Many husbands need to work to provide for their families needs, and if their wives have mesothelioma, the benefits that jobs may carry are more vital than ever. In a best-case scenario, extended family members can rally to provide the nurturing and care for an ailing mother, as well as her children. I found that my husband and sister provided a vast amount of support to me during this difficult time. More importantly, they helped me to remember the importance of humor during challenging times.
Sadly, the symptoms of mesothelioma are difficult to recognize as indications of the disease, and often, by the time a diagnosis is reached, the treatments available are all but useless. Mesothelioma prognosis are generally disheartening, unfortunately, and despite the constant improvement of radiation treatments and chemotherapies, a large number of cases are fatal. Mesothelioma life expectancy is the most devastating aspect for new mothers: it is heart-achingly short. However, with early diagnosis and intensive chemotherapy, successful surgery, and light exercise I was able to beat the odds. The great hope is that science will continue to advance our methods of detection and treatment, so that new mothers like myself can survive mesothelioma in order to watch our children grow.