The other day I was in Lowe’s looking for light bulbs and an elderly man was wearing a hat with the ship he served on just like the one my grandfather wore daily. The emotions caught me off guard. I will miss seeing my grandfather or ‘Old Man’ wearing a similar hat. My grandfather served over 20 years in the Navy and most proudly on the USS Frank E. Evans. My fondest memories with my grandparents in the past few years are going to the USS Frank E. Evans reunions and truly understanding my grandfather’s service to this country.
In November of last year Old Man was diagnosed with mesothelioma. When you think of mesothelioma, you think of the lawyer commercials. After this ordeal, I think of so much more, and it’s infuriating.
So what is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is cancer usually found in the lining of the lungs, typically caused by exposure to asbestos. Each year there are 2,000-3,000 new cases of mesothelioma. United States Military veterans make up over 30% of all patients with malignant mesothelioma. Veterans of the U.S. Navy have the highest risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos was relatively cheap and heat-resistant, so it was used extensively to fireproof the Navy’s ships, submarines and infrastructure. Only 40% of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma make it past 1 year; 10% live past 5 years.
Unfortunately my grandfather passed in July, nine months after his diagnosis. Although not a ’traditional’ type of lung cancer, the symptoms and side effects were the same. The pleurisy and pain in his lungs and body were heart breaking. There are some interesting clinical trials going on in mesothelioma but there isn’t currently a cure or any really successful treatment options. Seeing this again first hand was tough, and not being able to ‘fix’ it, was even worse.
September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Join me in wearing blue and learning more about the facts. While the Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina does not advocate for mesothelioma directly, we do want to direct those in need to organizations that do. Please check out our dedicated mesothelioma page.
Also, join me this Sunday, September 25 at the LUNGe Forward 5K in Raleigh. My team will be there walking and running in Old Man's memory.