On Christmas day of 2009, George, a former US military man, who first served in the Air Force and then worked in Charleston’s Navy Shipyards, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare, yet deadly type of cancer. Having received the news on what should have been a festive occasion was tragic enough as no one in the family (not even this military personnel, himself) thought that his constant exposure to asbestos during his active duty would result to the development of this irreversible and incurable cancer after many decades.

The worst events, however, were still to come.

On March 16, 2011, exactly 16 months after George was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he finally gave up his fight against the deadly cancer. While still grieving over his loss, though, it was his wife’s turn to be diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Pauline (his wife) discovered in August of 2011 that she too had mesothelioma; the cancer gave her only until November of that same year.

It is sad to note that the only way Pauline got exposed to asbestos was by washing George’s clothes after he got home from work. Obviously, asbestos’ sharp, microscopic fibers attached themselves onto his clothes (and probably hair and other parts of the body), a possibility that may have exposed their three children to the toxic mineral as well.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer. Despite its very long latency period, about 20 – 40 years before showing symptoms, it can very quickly spread to other parts of the body. Upon discovery of its symptoms, this cancer would already have developed into an advanced stage (usually stage 3 or 4), rendering it already irreversible and incurable; patients’ survival rate after diagnosis is usually only up to two years.

Continuous research by mesothelioma specialists, however, has allowed them to discover some ways that would delay spreading of the cancer and extend patients’ survival rates. Forms of treatment include: combination of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) or “heated chemotherapy,” and cytoreductive surgery; herbal and homeopathic medicine; surgical resection or segmentectomy; use of immunotherapy drug; consumption of antioxidants, such as melatonin which is found in red tart cherries; or, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy or mesothelioma radiation.

While some patients have lived three or five years longer, a certain few have continuously beaten the illness for more than 10 years. Surviving longer, though, is affected by the patient’s overall health, age, gender, stage of the cancer, the location or the organ affected, the type of mesothelioma that has developed (epithelial, sarcomatoid or the mixed type of the illness), and the stage of the cancer when treatment began.

Not all patients are strong enough to undergo treatment though, and while some risk surgery, saying they have nothing to lose since they’ll die anyway, never make it too. Those who are able to survive, on the other hand, due to chemotherapy, intake of drug or herbal medicine, etc., rely on these treatments continuously, depleting them of their financial resources after some time.

The website of the Williams Kherkher Law Firm explains the importance of consulting with a medical professional as soon as possible once the symptoms of mesothelioma are felt or if the person knows that his or her work exposed him or her to asbestos.