I was diagnosed with mesothelioma after years of working on jobs that I had no idea were poisoning me. I am in my 50s now and living with this painful, limiting, and terminal disease. I am struggling and will continue to do so, but I also have hope. I know that things are getting better and that workers are being protected more now than ever before. I also know that every time I tell my story, I can help change lives and prevent others from suffering a similar fate to mine.
My story begins in my small hometown in West Virginia. I started working as soon as I could find a job so I could earn and make a living. In high school I took a physically demanding job in demolition, but I was young and strong and didn’t mind the work. I didn’t know at the time that the dust swirling around me on those jobs—dust that I breathed in nearly daily—was often full of asbestos fibers.
Later I worked on cars. I tore out and replaced hood liners, then eventually gained enough skill to work as a mechanic. Among my many jobs was working on replacing and repairing brakes and clutches. Here, too, I was exposed to asbestos. As I tore out those old hood liners, asbestos fibers filled the air around me. Working on brakes and clutches also meant that I was stirring up asbestos fibers.
What I never knew until it was too late was that asbestos was everywhere around me and that it was causing damage inside my body. Those fibers I inhaled for years accumulated in the lining around my lungs, and years later developed into an aggressive type of cancer.
When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, I found out just how much damage had been done. This type of cancer is nearly always terminal and I wasn’t given much hope of living long, even with treatments. In spite of this, I continue to fight. I have sought out the best, most aggressive treatments available to me, including chemotherapy.
I live with a lot of pain and discomfort now. The cancer is spreading, and I struggle to breathe and be as active as I once was. In spite of all of this, I also live with hope. I still have my family around me. I have people who love me and are able to help care for me. I may not be able to do what I used to, but I still have family in my life, and that is what matters the most to me.
I also have a lot of hope, because I know that in continuing to tell my story I can inform others about the risks of being around asbestos. I want everyone to know how dangerous it is but also that there are laws to protect them. No one should be forced to work in a job that puts them at risk for this terrible disease. If just one person reads my story and takes steps to ensure his or her rights to a safe workplace, then I am happy. 

For more about mesothelioma, check out Mesothelioma.net or email at info@mesothelioma.net.

About the Author

Virgil Anderson was diagnosed with the rare cancer known as Mesothelioma. Thanks to the help of those working at mesothelioma.net, his treatments have been successful and his questions about this disease have been answered. He hopes to share this helpful resource center with both those merely seeking to learn more and those searching for support with their mesothelioma.

Text and Image (c) Virgil Anderson 2017, all rights reserved.