Guest Post: Living with Mesothelioma

One of my readers, Heather, recently wrote to me and asked if she could submit a guest post about her experience since receiving a cancer diagnosis.  Please keep reading to learn more about her journey.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

“You have cancer.” Those are three of the scariest words in the English language, and most people, including me, never think that they will ever hear those words in their
lifetimes.  The doctor told me when I was busy celebrating the birth of my baby 3 ½ months earlier.  I never realized how quickly emotions could change.  I went from being ecstatic to fearful because of my pleural mesothelioma diagnosis.  Even worse, I learned that this cancer came from asbestos exposure.

“Isn’t asbestos banned?” “Where were you exposed to asbestos?”  Those were always the two questions that I would get when I told anyone about my diagnosis.  I did not mind telling them that asbestos was not banned, and I was exposed secondhand by my father.  My father had been exposed to asbestos through the construction industry. Each day, he handled material filled with millions of asbestos fibers, and unknowingly, those asbestos fibers would cling to his clothes that he brought into our home.

Thirty-six years old does not sound like the typical mesothelioma patient.  However, I was 36 years old when I was diagnosed.  Most people who had been diagnosed were people who worked in trades that exposed them to asbestos fibers.  They worked as electricians, plumbers, or on shipyards.  Also, women who were the wives of these workers also were diagnosed because when they washed laundry, they did not realize they were handling the millions of asbestos fibers on their husbands’ clothing.

However, I do look like the generation of people who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma today.  These people are young; most are in their late 20’s or early 30’s. I look like them because they too are just getting married, getting new jobs, and having babies.  We have the same backgrounds because we were exposed to asbestos secondhand.  We loved daddy so much that we had to run and hug him in his asbestos filled clothes when he got off from work.  We had to put on his jacket, so our clothes would not get dirty.  We had to follow him all around the house before he cleaned the asbestos from his clothes and body.  Through all of this bad news, there is still good news that lots of people, young and old, are surviving this disease.  Treatment for mesothelioma continues to improve everyone’s chances of
beating this disease.

Yes, hearing you have cancer can take a huge mental toll on you.  Even with that news, I still continue to hold onto hope.  My mesothelioma community supports me, and I support them.  We cry together, but more importantly, we celebrate each and every victory together.

I will continue to do what I do.  I will continue to give people an inside look to asbestos and mesothelioma.  If I can help one person in any kind of way, then I know that I am doing the right thing.

Screen Shot 2012-07-26 at 8.01.02 AM

Heather and her family

Guest post: blood matters (sometimes)

My recent post, “Blood Matters,” generated some interesting discussion on “The Adopted Ones Blog.” As it turns out, it also generated some interesting discussion with Grandma G. She felt so strongly about this topic, that she wanted to contribute too. Here’s what she had to say:

_______________________________________________

My daughter recently posted a piece on the importance of blood. I felt so strongly about her writing that I wanted to add another
perspective to it.

I have always thought that blood mattered. After all, I spent my whole life being identified by my last name. I am one of 10 children, so I was
recognized almost anywhere I went. Somebody’s sister. Although this connection didn’t necessarily bring any rewards with it. Except once when I was new in high school, some girls were picking on me in the bathroom until someone spoke up to say, “leave her alone she’s _____  ‘s sister.” The feeling of belonging to a family seemed very important to me.

As an adult, I couldn’t wait to continue the line with children of my own. I don’t have to tell anyone the wonders of carrying a child, delivering that child and then watching him/her grow, learn and succeed. Now at 56 years of age, my perspective has changed somewhat. I still feel
strongly that family matters, but not necessarily blood.

The past couple of years spent as a grandma to two adopted children has provided me with a new outlook. Sadly some of the changes in this outlook have resulted from watching my own blood family drift further apart. That’s not to say we would not be there for any one of us in a time of need, but with the family getting bigger through marriages and births, and with many moving farther away, most of us just don’t have the same bond anymore. This, and the adoption, have caused me to reevaluate the importance of blood in and of itself. Now I see that although family is important, blood is not necessarily. Family to me is people who live together, grow together, and share together – with or without
blood.

My grandchildren are as much family to me as blood could be. When driving out to visit my brother recently, BE was questioning Aunt NK and Uncle JK’s last name. The conversation ended with her saying that if Aunt NK and Uncle JK are part of the family, then their last name must be the same as hers. In her mind everyone who is related to her should share her last name. Her new last name. For a 6-year-old to express this should make us all stop and think about how important it is to provide that connection.

If I have any concerns about all of this blood/adoption it would be that perhaps focusing too much on the fact that they are adopted may
make them feel less part of the family. Although children who are adopted may know, or should know, they are adopted, placing too much emphasis on this fact may make them feel less connected, less “family.” So let’s focus on them as our family and discuss the adoption only when they bring it up.

Guest post: Adoption is a Family Affair

Today’s guest post is from my sister, aunt LM. Keep reading to see her review of “Adoption is a Family Affair” by Patricia Irwin Johnston.

Reading this book before the adoption of my niece and nephew was finalized would have been a smart move. But it’s definitely better late than never, for as the sister and sister-in-law of adoptive parents, I did learn a great deal that will help me throughout the lives of my niece and nephew.

The book was very thorough – covering every type of adoption from interracial, to international and to adoption of special needs children. A portion of this book was not applicable to the adoption my family and I are experiencing, but nonetheless was still interesting to read about and compare to our unique situation.

Every step of the adoption process was covered, from the very moment one decides to adopt, all the way through when an adopted child is an adult, offering tips and suggestions along the way. I definitely picked up a lot of things I will need to know as an aunt that will help me in situations I may encounter in the future. The book will be an excellent reference to have years down the road.

One chapter of the book dealt with respecting the privacy of an adopted child when it comes to his/her past. It’s imperative to accept that the reason the child was put up for adoption in the first place, medical conditions, etc. are the concern of the adoptive parents, and family members should not pry for information they don’t need to know. I found this section especially useful, to me specifically, for even after a year of the adoption being finalized, I still find my curiosity getting the best of me. I am definitely guilty of asking questions concerning my niece and nephew that should be kept private. The author reiterates that once information is out there, it can never be retrieved. And the last thing an adopted child needs is to accidentally find out information about his or her past from a relative.

Now that I have read this book, there are thoughts running through my mind along the lines of “I hope I didn’t do that!” The author advises family members to not bombard future parents with questions during the time in which they are waiting on an adoption to become final. It’s suggested that constantly calling a parent-to-be for updates can be irritating, especially when the process is taking longer than expected. I immediately thought about how I was frequently calling S and asking her what the status was, how things were moving along, and what the next step would be. I was doing all those things because I was excited and genuinely interested in how the process was going. In hindsight, I may have added to the stress she and J were already feeling. Other things I wish I had known not to do, which I am quite certain I did – offer up stories of adoption I heard from others as ways to contribute to a conversation or offer advice, and tell S how selfless her and J are and how I admire their decision to adopt (the author advises that adoptive parents are not adopting to receive praise and that often hearing such remarks can make them uncomfortable).

The adoption process as a whole, including paper work, finding an agency, the home study, and more, were covered thoroughly. I enjoyed reading all that was included in the process, because it gave me an idea of what S & J went through. I learned of details that were not told to me along the way, and that gives me a better understanding of the steps taken that led to my niece and nephew becoming part of our family.

Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed in the author’s choice of language at times. She liked to use the term “ignorant” when referring to a friend or family member who does not immediately understand or accept the fact that one has chosen to adopt. I found that term offensive, and I am not easily offended. Aside from that, Adoption Is a Family Affair! is definitely a worthwhile read for any friend or family member of someone looking into adoption or currently going through the process.

Guest post: I’m a mother – part 1

My cousin, AK, writes about her quest to become a mother at Living is Easy with Eyes Closed. Because of our different experiences, AK and I both feel differently about our status as mothers. In honor of Mother’s Day, AK and I are doing a two-part post explaining our journey into motherhood. Here’s AK’s installment:

_________________________________________________________

After 10 months of trying – I finally got pregnant. Sadly, two weeks after that first positive test, I miscarried the baby. I was about eight weeks along at the time. After the loss, I found myself having a hard time trying to figure out what I was. Was I still a mother? Many times, people celebrate their first Mother’s Day while they are pregnant with the child, not just after the child is born. They are considered a mother while they are pregnant. So if I was a mother while pregnant, what am I now? If a woman has only one child, and that child was to pass away, would you tell the woman she was no longer a mother? Why is it different for women who have miscarried a baby? Is it because we are not considered a mother to begin with?

While working through this, I decided to look up the definition for the word “mother,” and most of the definitions I found said something along these lines:

Mother:

a. A female person who is pregnant with, or gives birth to, a child.
b. A female person whose egg unites with a sperm, resulting in the conception of a child.
c. A woman who adopts a child.
d. A woman who raises a child.  (freedictionary.com)The American Heritage dictionary’s definition includes: “to care for, nourish, and protect.” as part of the definition.By these definitions, I was a mother. I may not have given birth to a baby, but I conceived one, and I was pregnant. I protected my baby- I took it easy, I made my baths cooler. I would have done ANYTHING possible to protect that baby, but unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to prevent what happened. I nourished it – I ate healthier, I took my vitamins, I ate according to the guidelines my doctor gave me. I cared for that baby. I really did. I loved my baby. I bonded with it, talked to it, we shopped for it. Just because we lost the baby, I don’t think that I am no longer a mother. I felt a love and connection that I didn’t know it was possible to feel. I became a mother the moment I saw two lines on a test, and that doesn’t just go away because my baby is in heaven instead of here with me. Once you have felt that love and connection, you are a changed person, I know that I am! So this Mother’s Day, despite what anyone else may say, I am going to celebrate being a mother – because I believe once you are a mother, you are always a mother.

Guest Post: A Grandmother’s Adoption Perspective

I’m excited to share my first guest post! This is from my mother, “Grandma G”, and this is her adoption story.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I wasn’t prepared for the news that my daughter shared with me one night as we sat in a restaurant with my younger daughter and my husband. I was told that she and her husband were going to adopt a child. They had already begun the process. I was so taken aback that I became extremely quiet and unhappy for the remainder of the evening. Thinking back on it now I believe part of me felt hurt that I wasn’t included sooner. On the drive home my husband expressed his disapproval of the idea. He felt that they should try to have their own before considering adoption. This certainly didn’t help me with the feelings I was experiencing. I was so upset by the thought that she would not have her own child that I didn’t even go to work the next day. I left that morning as if I were going to work but called in along the way saying I was ill and returned home after I knew my husband had left for the day. This bit of information is something that I didn’t share with my daughter. I didn’t want her to know just how devastating her news was.  After all it shouldn’t be my decision.  When I did speak with them about their decision, I did ask why they didn’t want their own children. Although I understood their reasons and felt a deal of respect for them, I still felt cheated. I also believed that I must have failed somehow causing her to not want her own child.

When I found out that they were considering an older child I had to deal with more misgivings. An older child would already have their own expectations of life, they would like certain music, television shows, etc. I knew I was being selfish but those were my feelings. I kept much of it to myself, after all, my feelings were something I had to deal with, not them.

It has been about 15 months or so since the brother and sister they chose came into our lives. It has been an adjustment for everyone, especially them. I have done my best during these months to be supportive, trying to never step over the line by being too pushy.  The children have melded wonderfully with us and are certainly a part of the family now. I would not change anything. I do still have a desire for my daughter to experience the growth and birth of her own child. I know what a wonderful experience it was for me and would love for her to have that same rewarding experience. But perhaps she has had that wonderful feeling; after all I have never had the pleasure of adopting. Maybe adoption is just as fulfilling.