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Living with Mesothelioma and Finding Support

By t he Team At Mesothelioma.net

 

Introduction

Virgil Anderson’s story is one of both disappointment and hope. It is the tragedy of being diagnosed with a terrible disease and the comfort of finding support and help in dire times. Virgil is living with mesothelioma, an aggressive and painful cancer that attacks the tissue around the lungs. He had few resources for help, but found the support he needed to find treatment, financial assistance, and more, through mesothelioma.net.

Working with Asbestos

Virgil’s story begins with his working life, which goes back to high school. Growing up in West Virginia, Virgil had to start working as soon as he could after his coal miner father died. He found work in demolition, tearing down old buildings. After high school he was able to find more skilled and rewarding work as a mechanic. He worked on all areas of cars, including interiors, brakes, clutches, and engines.

Asbestos, unfortunately for Virgil, was in all parts of his work. This mineral was used extensively before the 1970s when restrictions were placed on how and where it could be used. This happened when enough research had proven that inhaling its microscopic fibers could lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer and other illnesses.
 
Most exposure to asbestos that causes people to get sick occurs on the job. Asbestos was used in a number of industries, most heavily in building construction, but also in cars. When Virgil helped to tear down those old buildings, the dust swirling around him contained asbestos. When he pulled out old headliners from cars or took out clutches to repair, he again was surrounded by airborne asbestos fibers.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Virgil first realized he was sick when he started to experience respiratory symptoms: a bad cough, chest pains, and shortness of breath. Ultimately he went from fit and active to barely able to walk to his mailbox. He ended up in the emergency room where he was told he had pneumonia. Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose. It mimics more common illnesses and it is rare. It was typical that Virgil was misdiagnosed initially. Eventually he did get the right diagnosis. A biopsy of chest tissue told his doctors he had pleural mesothelioma.

Treatment and Support

He was devastated, but Virgil was also determined. He wanted to know what his treatment options were and how he could fight the cancer. Unfortunately his prognosis was not good and his doctors told him that the tumors had already spread too far to make surgery an option. He could try chemotherapy, but the cancer would eventually take over his body.

Virgil’s next challenge was the fact that he was uninsured and the cost of treatment was staggering. He didn’t have access to experts in this rare cancer either. A search online led him to mesothelioma.net, and after others had turned him away as a lost cause, they helped him get in touch with the National Cancer Institute. There he was able to get the specialist care he needed. The advocates at the site also helped him find the financial resources he needed to get treatment.
 
Now Virgil is living with mesothelioma. Treatment is helping extend his life and is improving his quality of life, but he is still limited. He can’t work and he relies on family to help him and social security disability to pay the bills. Virgil insists on enjoying his life, in spite of his cancer. He is happy to still be alive and to be with family. He shares his story as much as he possibly can. He didn’t know about asbestos until it was too late, and he hopes that by sharing his experiences he can prevent others from getting sick while also giving hope to those who already are.