Bob McCoy's Story

school teacher/administrator, Colorado
Bob and Joan McCoy have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado since 1951. Bob worked for 31 years for the local Harrison School District 2, starting as a woodshop teacher and ending as an assistant superintendent.

While they would like to be traveling to visit children and grandchildren in their retirement years, they instead are spending their days getting treatment for the advanced mesothelioma Bob developed as a result of exposure to asbestos.

"When you stop and think about your life, it's frightening," said McCoy, who oversaw the building of new schools in the Harrison district. "God, I didn't know sheet rock had asbestos in it."

Bob was reluctant at first to file a lawsuit to collect damages for his suffering and to help pay his medical bills, but he changed his mind when he started to understand the degree to which companies knowingly used asbestos even after it became well known that inhaled fibers could cause fatal diseases.

McCoy's lawsuit was settled last August, but so far only a few of the defendants have paid anything. Even though his condition has worsened to the point that his doctor has asked him to look into hospices in his area, he has decided to spend his remaining life essence fighting the Asbestos Trust Fund Bill, which would effectively negate any outstanding legal settlements, including Bob's.

Any settlement that has been made and has not been paid at the time, should the legislation be signed into law, would basically be tossed out. Bob believes that he and his family should be able to collect what has been promised by the court and by the corporations whose products gave him cancer. "There's no escaping it. I'm gonna die," he said. "I don't know what my life is worth, probably not a lot. But if I can't be around, I'd like to be able to leave my kids some money."

Congressman Bruce Vento's Story

age 60, legislator, Minnesota
NOTE: On the third anniversary of the death of the late Minnesota Congressman Bruce Vento, his widow Susan Vento offers the following opinion editorial concerning asbestos litigation legislation currently being considered by the United States Senate. Bruce Vento died of mesothelioma October 10, 2000. Susan Vento is a field representative for Education Minnesota, an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federal of Teachers and AFL-CIO. She also serves on the board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the national nonprofit organization whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.

Asbestos: Big Business Attempt to Avoid Compensating Victims
By Susan Vento

When my late husband, Bruce Vento, announced that he was retiring from the U.S. House of Representatives, he quoted former Minnesota Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey who said: "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

Congressional leaders in Washington are about to fail Humphrey's test on all counts by pushing legislation that they claim will help solve the so-called "asbestos litigation problem." But, in fact, the Asbestos Trust Fund Bill won't solve anything, at least not for asbestos victims and their families.

While its proponents call it the FAIR (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution act) Act, there's nothing fair about it. For example, the bill would put an end to all current and future lawsuits against companies who knowingly exposed workers to asbestos. It will also cancel all pending settlements for victims, and would void jury verdicts awarded to victims unless they have already been paid.

In exchange for being shielded from liability for their actions, asbestos manufacturing companies would be required to contribute to a fund that would be set up to compensate victims. However, the trust fund will simply not add up to adequately compensate all victims and their families - who frequently incur medical bills up to and exceeding a million dollars. In addition, the stringent and unrealistic medical criteria required to be eligible for compensation will prevent thousands of legitimate victims from receiving justice. Finally, the fund will be paid through a new and untested government bureaucracy that will take years to set up before the first dollar is paid to victims. As one CEO said, if this bill passes, asbestos companies will be "partying in the streets."

Most people don't know much about asbestos and how it can affect people's lives. And if they are like me until just a few short years ago, they've never even heard the word "mesothelioma." They don't know that asbestos will continue to harm innocent people for years to come. Asbestos is present all over the country in workplaces, homes, and schools. It is a poison, and exposure to it can cause serious illnesses, including a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma.

The reality of asbestos hit home for me when Bruce was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January of 2000. Contrary to popular belief, mesothelioma is not a disease like lung cancer, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including smoking. It is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, and most victims die an extremely painful death within one year of diagnosis.

Bruce was a strong, healthy man so the diagnosis was a tremendous shock to our family and all of our friends. He was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s in a factory on the east side of St. Paul while working a summer job to save money for school. He was diagnosed 35 years later. Mesothelioma can lie dormant in the system for decades.

Family and friends watched as Bruce suffered through this debilitating disease. He had radical surgery to remove his left lung and part of his diaphragm. Aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed. Bruce deteriorated in a matter of months from an active father, grandfather, and Congressman, to an exhausted and devastated victim of asbestos.

Bruce's story is just one of hundreds of thousands of people — victims and their families — whose lives have been destroyed by asbestos. While the FAIR act's proponents like to say that the bill will help victims, it actually helps businesses who have exposed their employees to asbestos. More importantly, it hurts the victims of mesothelioma, who don't have years to wait for justice.

Another Minnesota leader — Bruce's good friend, the late Senator Paul Wellstone — once said: "Politics is what we create out of what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine." What I hope for and what I dare to imagine is that we live in a world that doesn't expose people to the risks of asbestos and doesn't leave the victims of diseases and their families without hope. I urge people to contact members of Congress, especially their Senators, and urge them to vote NO on the Asbestos Trust Fund Bill. It is a moral test.

Susan Lawes Story

advocate, Virginia
On Friday, June 10, victims of asbestos poisoning lost a true champion as Susan Lawes succumbed after a heroic three-year battle with mesothelioma. As her many friends in Washington and across the country know, Susan fought tirelessly and with great attitude against the disease, never giving up hope even as she underwent multiple surgeries and treatments. Despite knowledge of the prognosis of the disease, there was nothing that could be done to prepare her friends or family for this loss and she will be terribly missed.

Susan was unknowingly exposed to asbestos as a young child. Her father, a pipe fitter, brought asbestos home on his clothing and she inhaled the toxic mineral when she welcomed him home from work with a hug. Like most asbestos victims, Susan didn't develop mesothelioma until several decades after her exposure.

Even as her health weakened, Susan dedicated much of her time to championing fair treatment for asbestos victims. In her final days, in fact, she discussed bringing television cameras into her life to record the devastation — "anything that will help" was not just a casual statement for Susan, it was a way of life. She truly felt that all asbestos victims should be treated fairly under the law, and her opposition to the current effort to enact a business bailout Trust Fund was legendary.

Her family knew Susan as a beloved wife and family member. We knew her as a fighter. As we continue our fight for asbestos victims across the country, let us always remember her inspiration. Ancient wisdom says that, when one warrior goes down, the rest of us must renew our efforts. Susan will be impossible to replace, both in our political efforts and in the many lives she touched, but her example will continue to inspire us as long as asbestos victims seek justice.

Internal Radiation (Brachytherapy)

Internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy, involves the placement of radiation sources in the body. With mesothelioma patients, the radioactive material is positioned inside the abdomen or the chest.

External Beam Radiation

The form of radiation therapy used most often is external radiation, in which a machine very similar to an X-ray machine directs strong beams of light at the cancerous cells from outside the body, killing the tumor cells underneath.

Radiation Treatment

Radiation therapy is an intense X-ray treatment to damage or kill cancer cells. Although not a cure for mesothelioma, radiation therapy nonetheless may be used at different stages of the disease to slow its growth. Radiation is often the main treatment for patients in weak health. Radiation is also used to destroy small clusters of cancer cells that may have been missed in surgery. When used in conjunction with surgery, radiation treatment is referred to as adjuvant radiation.

Surgery Options

In some cases, surgery may be indicated to alleviate symptoms or slow the progression of mesothelioma. Surgery may be performed along side with with other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, also known as “multi-modal therapy.”

Whether a surgery is recommended in your case will depend on factors unique to your situation. This includes the type and location of the cancer, the “stage” of the cancer, and your overall health. Of course, whether your doctor recommends surgery in your case will depend on factors individual to your case. Always talk to your doctor before making any final decisions

Cell Types of Mesothelioma

A patient’s doctor or medical records may refer to the “cell type” of the malignant mesothelioma. This refers to the type of tissue where the cancer first developed. For example, “epithelial” malignant mesothelioma refers to cancerous cells that develop in the “epithelium,” which is the membrane lining of the lung, heart, or abdomen. In contrast, “sarcomatous” malignant mesothelioma arises in connective tissue. “Biphasic” refers to malignant mesothelioma that arises in two different cell types. Other cell types of malignant mesothelioma are lymphohistiocytoid and desmoplastic.

Keeping a Healthy Diet

Eating the right foods are essential, when you are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Cancer diets involve eating the correct amounts of protein and calories as well as drinking the right amount of water to keep the ailing body replenished and energized. The body needs plenty of nourishment when it is going through chemotherapy or even when the patient is taking certain medications. Make sure to eat plenty of different fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling. Make sure to talk to your nutritionist before starting any diet. He or she will be able to tell you exactly what you should eat according to your personal needs.

How to Cope with Mesothelioma?

Living with a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be very emotionally difficult to deal with. Understandably, you may be feeling upset and confused as it is not uncommon for Mesothelioma to be diagnosed at an advanced stage. Here are five tips to help you or a loved one to cope with Mesothelioma:

1: Coping with your feelings.

Everyone has a different reaction when they learn that they have Mesothelioma. A wide range of feelings and emotions such as confusion, upset , worried, depression, shock, fear, denial, anger, negativity, etc. And it is not uncommon for people to feel relieved on learning they have Mesothelioma as they feel it is better to know than not know at all.

Just because you are having different feelings to others (or to the ones listed above) does not mean that you are not coping. There is no text book way to cope with Mesothelioma. The feelings you experience are naturally right for you so do not compare your feelings with anyone else.

2: Finding others to talk to.

Your family and friends may find it hard to talk with each other about Mesothelioma. This is not unusual as they may be scared of frightening you or make it more difficult to talk about in the future. Most Mesothelioma patients feel that a problem shared is a problem halved. In some cases, patients feel it is best just to be listened to and know that someone is there if a ‘good pair of listening ears’ is needed. Get the subject out in the open.

3: How to tell children.

It is never easy to tell children about Mesothelioma, even more difficult if they are small. Most patients will have small children, young relatives or the children of friends in their lives.
If the child you need to speak with is very small, start off by explaining that the person in question is very poorly. If the child is a little older, it is a good idea to explain Mesothelioma cancer as good cells and bad cells in the body. It is also a good idea if you know a little about Mesothelioma or cancer but overall, try to keep it simple.

You will also need to listen to the questions of the child and answer them the best you can without trying to upset them too much. Starting off with small bits of information and building up to the bigger picture as time goes on is a good way to go.
But don’t keep any secrets. Children are good at telling when something is not right and it may be harder for them to cope with uncertainty that it would be coping with the truth.

As adults, it can be natural to try and protect children from the truth but children can pick up on unusual comings and goings and will feel left out. Keep them informed, even if it is with just little snippets of information..

If possible, try to have a word with the childs school teacher to let them know that someone close to them is ill. Hopefully, the teacher will keep an eye on the child in case of any changes in the childs behaviour.

4. What can you do?

A feeling of helplessness is not unusual when someone is first told that they have Mesothelioma. Try and learn to understand Mesothelioma as this will help you and your family to take action and know what to expect. It is best to talk to a professional such as your doctor if you need more information as they will be able to advise you on your specific case which is always better than getting general information about Mesothelioma from a book or the internet. Be sure to take a list of questions to save time for you and your doctor.

It may be a good idea to see if there are any local support groups you can join. Finding people going through a similar experience as yourself can help you cope. Your doctor or hospital will be able to let you know if there are any support groups near to you.

As you are having treatment, you will find that you may not be able to do as much as you would like on a day to day basis. Once you start to feel a little better, try and do some simple tasks and do a little more each day. This will help with confidence but always remember not to over do things.

A lot of patients try to fight Mesothelioma by planning a healthy diet, learning relaxation techniques and taking regular exercise. You don’t have to do this, only if you would like to try it. The last thing you need are more dramatic changes in your life if you’re not ready for them. But if you do decide to give exercise a go, start slowly and set realistic targets. You will have good days and bad days so always plan your activity on how you feel on the day.

5: Who else can help?

More support can come from your GP if needed and hospitals can give advice and support through cancer nurses and specially trained staff will advise you on any worries you may have.

For financial help, check any insurance policies you have to see if you are covered. It is also advisable to seek financial help from your local welfare office if needed.

Sometimes it is nice to talk with someone who has nothing to do with Mesothelioma. You may want to try counselling or if you’re religious, speaking with a local minister or anyone else involved in your faith.

George Spence is the author of Mesothelioma help site and spends a great deal of his time
writing articles about coping with Mesothelioma.
See more at An Introduction to Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Attorney

Here is a simple approach to selecting the right mesothelioma attorney for you. There are five basic steps that will help you find the right attorney out of the large number of lawyers trying to find your business. Let's start the mesothelioma attorney checklist:

  1. Seek out referrals from people who you respect and who have worked with personal injury and mesothelioma attorneys representing other asbestos and mesothelioma cases.
  2. Schedule interviews with three mesothelioma attorneys. There might be a preliminary fee involved, but many attorney will waive the fee for short interviews.
  3. Make sure that the interview stays on track and focused. You need to be able to establish a comfort and trust level the mesothelioma attorney. This is not to ask for specific legal guidance during this interview process.
    • How have you assisted other people suffering from mesothelioma?
    • Do you have knowledge about asbestos exposure and the medical side of mesothelioma?
    • What payment structure do you use? Is it a flat rate or a percentage? This is very important since potential mesothelioma settlements that your attorney may win could be very large..

  4. At the end of each interview ask each mesothelioma attorney three referrals from other mesothelioma cases that they have handled. Contact these references and ask them about their experiences.
  5. When you've visited the three mesothelioma attorneys, you will hopefully be comfortable in selecting one of them. If not do not be afraid to interview another three mesothelioma attorney.

Mesothelioma Facts

  1. Over 10,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions each year, 3,000 in the US alone.
  2. It is estimated that over 110,000 schools in the United States still contain some form of asbestos.
  3. Even though cigarette smoking does not cause mesothelioma, victims exposed asbestos who smoke suffer a 50-90% increase in the likelihood of developing lung cancers.
  4. Asbestos has been banned or regulated in many industrialized countries around the world.
  5. Post-diagnosis survival of mesothelioma is measured in months, because by the time the cancer is detected it is too advanced for treatment.
  6. Because of the long dormancy of mesothelioma, experts speculate that there will be an increase of cases for the next 20 to 30 years.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are three types of mesothelioma cancer: Peritoneal Mesothelioma, Pleural Mesothelioma, and Pericardial Mesothelioma. The difference between each of these types of Mesothelioma is the location of the growth of the cancer. In the following paragraphs, you will learn about each of these types of Mesothelioma.

In Peritoneal Mesothelioma, the mesothelium of the abdomen begins to dissolve and create a tumor. This form of Mesothelioma is caused by the digestion of asbestos, most commonly by the painkiller Vioxx. This is the second most common case of Mesothelioma accounting for about 10% of all cases. Some common symptoms are abdomen swelling, nausea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and abdomen pain.

Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common type of Mesothelioma. It is caused by the inhalation of the asbestos in many building by unprotected workers. This type affects the lungs and respiratory system. Common symptoms are persistent coughing, weight loss, facial swelling, difficulty swallowing and coughing up blood. As with every other type of Mesothelioma, the symptoms may not occur till decades of exposure.

Pericardial Mesothelioma affects the heart and is the rarest form of Mesothelioma. This may take decades to develop and may not show any symptoms till the after many years of exposure. Some common symptoms are persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. If you experience any of these symptoms and have had long term direct exposure to the chemical asbestos, contacting a medical facility is recommended.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. The onset of symptoms is gradual, and a person often experiences symptoms for four to six months before the diagnosis is made.

You should see a health-care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in breathing (dyspnea) is the most common complaint
  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Easy fatigability
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

The above listed symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious diseases. Only a health-care provider can make a diagnosis with the help of various exams and tests.

How Do I Find a Good Mesothelioma Doctor?

Just like looking for the best lawyers to handle a serious case, looking for the best doctors for mesothelioma is extremely important. If you or your loved one has this form of cancer, only the best trained and experienced doctor can give you the accurate diagnosis and can recommend other recuperative approaches. You will need to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about the disease and medication or other treatment options. You need a doctor who can come up with the correct options in care such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgical appraisal, and/or other more focused forms of treatment. It is of paramount significance to broaden your search for doctors who handle mesothelioma successfully. You want the doctor who also keeps himself informed of the latest procedures and studies.

You also need to know who is the backup physician. With a qualified substitute you can feel rest assured that you will be taken care of when you need medical attention. You have to consider the hospital where the doctor has work privileges. Since you will be visiting the clinic or hospital every now and then, it is important that you are comfortable with the location and quality of care that you would receive at that location.

You and your doctor will be partners for the rest of your life. So choosing a doctor should be done wisely and carefully. Consider recommendations or referrals. Reflect on the credentials of the doctors and verify them. Choose 3 or 4 specialists and study their credentials before finally making appointments with those doctors. Then meet them and evaluate how well you two interact. Second opinions can also be helpful. There are conservative doctors and there are assertive ones. Only you can be the judge as to what kind of doctor is right for you.

You will be telling your doctor important information about your disease ranging from symptoms to how long ago the exposure was and how much time were you exposed to asbestos or asbestos-related substance. After the initial consultation the doctor may feel it necessary for you to undergo some scans like the Chest CT scan or biopsy, contingent on the type of mesothelioma cancer you have. Basically, there are three types of mesothelioma cancer. Pleural lungs, peritoneal (abdominal) and pericardial (heart), any of these can develop within you. As soon as your doctor has arrived at a definite analysis, you will know what type of mesothelioma cancer you have, at what stage and if the cancer has metastasized. Treatments are then scheduled. Whatever the treatments are, your doctor will recommend what is appropriate for you in considering how far along the cancer has progressed.

Having a good effective relationship with your doctor is key to your treatment. Being able to communicate properly with each other makes a big difference in your ability to deal with your cancer. Remember not to leave everything to your doctor. You also have responsibilities. Telling the doctor honestly how you feel, your opinions, and your questions will educate you about your illness. With recent research and discoveries, patients who undergo treatment are experiencing longer remissions than ever before. Mesothelioma patients with proper doctor care are living for longer periods of time.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos. In this disease, malignant cells develop in the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body's internal organs. Its most common site is the pleura (outer lining of the lungs and chest cavity), but it may also occur in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) or the pericardium (a sac that surrounds the heart).

Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibre in other ways, such as by washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos, or by home renovation using asbestos cement products. Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking.