My husband's clothes gave me mesothelioma
Mavis was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, but she’s determined not to let the condition beat her.
I first noticed something wasn’t quite right in January 2009, when I suddenly lost all feeling in one arm. I went straight to my GP to find out what was wrong and was told it was probably just a problem with a nerve.
An X-ray was scheduled, but with a two and a half month holiday in Spain already planned and nothing too serious suspected, I decided to wait until after my break to investigate further. Not long after returning to the UK, I was walking to a polling station when I found myself getting really breathless.
I knew something definitely wasn’t right this time, and finally I got the X-ray I needed. It showed lots of fluid on my left lung that needed to be drained – 5 litres of it! Sadly, further tests revealed cancer cells in the fluid, and a biopsy confirmed my diagnosis: mesothelioma, a cancer caused by contact with asbestos that affects the lining of the lungs and currently has no cure.
I never worked with asbestos myself, but my husband did – in a shipyard, just like thousands of others in his generation. No one knew the dangers at the time, and I realised I must have been exposed by breathing in the asbestos fibres from his work clothes, which I used to shake and wash for him.
The next steps for me were chemotherapy and radiotherapy. At that time, I was given just three months to live. But I’ve been determined not to let this condition beat me. It’s now been four years and I’m still fighting.
I can’t do quite as much as I used to. I enjoyed swimming and walking, but the water is too cold for me now and I can’t breathe too well if it’s windy outside – but I still get out into the garden and go camping with my husband in our motorhome. Although most days I get tired quickly and have to have a sleep in the afternoon, I still manage to have an active social life.
For the past year I've been taking part in a trial for a new drug, and my tumour has shrunk so much. The doctors have decided my body is still going strong so I'm going to continue taking this new drug to see where it takes me; I hope it all shrinks away now.
I'm the only one left of three who began this trial, so the researchers are looking at my DNA to find out what gene is working to give me such encouraging results. Despite living with constant physical pain, I've been busy campaigning to make sure no one has to go through the same experience in the future.
I also share my story on my own blog to help raise awareness of life with mesothelioma and to reach out to others with the condition.
Treatment for mesothelioma is limited and I've been very lucky to survive this long, as sadly fewer than 1 in 10 people diagnosed will survive for as long as 5 years.
It’s often diagnosed when people are at an advanced age and many people have other health issues to deal with too. Research into mesothelioma receives less funding than other cancers which kill similar numbers of people, and that's something I want to change.
Raising the profile of mesothelioma is really important to me; I want more people to know what it is and the impact it has on so many lives like mine. Action Mesothelioma Day is a great opportunity to talk about this. We will find a cure for this deadly disease. But we can't make it happen without more funding for research and support for mesothelioma.
This Action Mesothelioma Day, please consider making a donation to the BLF and help us get one step closer to the end of this asbestos-related cancer.
What we do
One person in five in the UK is affected by lung disease. Millions more are at risk. We’re here for every one of them.