My husband Brian was 52 years old when he learned that he was dying. Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, attributed to the short time he had lived in the mining town of Wittenoom as a young child, his prognosis was 3 to 9 months.
That he had enjoyed 45 years of good health in between his exposure to asbestos and the onset of the disease that would end his life, was something I found hard to fathom then and still do to this day, however through my research into asbestos and asbestos related disease, I have come to understand that it is quite common for there to be a long latency between asbestos exposure and disease which can range up to 5o years.
As Brian’s disease progressed, it became increasingly difficult for him to swallow due to the tumour pressing against his oesophagus. For a short time, dilatation to stretch the opening of the oesophagus was successful in stretching the opening enough to allow for a pureed diet. When the dilations were no longer successful, we were told that chemotherapy was Brian’s only option. If this failed, his death would be imminent.
Although I knew there were no other treatment options available to Brian, the thought of him undergoing chemotherapy was frightening. I had so many questions: How would it affect us? Would it work? How long would it go on? Would Brian be able to eat normally again? Would it give him extra time?
Brian’s reaction to his first round of chemotherapy treatment was dramatic. When constant vomiting made it impossible for him to retain his medication, his pain spiralled out of control and he needed to be admitted to hospital.
Whilst there, he was visited by the pain management specialist attached to the hospital’s Palliative Care team, who quickly administered the medications that were needed to bring both Brian’s nausea and pain under control.
To our immense relief, he also prescribed medication for Brian to take prior to and after his next round of chemotherapy, which proved to be successful in preventing any side effects to the treatment.
Without fear of side effects, Brian welcomed his chemotherapy sessions. By the end of the second round, the tumour had shrunk and the benefits were obvious. Once again able to eat solid food, he regained his joy of preparing and eating his favourite foods and he felt and looked so much better. I could not believe the change in him.
Sadly, the joy was short lived. When the tumour grew back a short time later there was no stopping it.
At the age of 54, Brian’s courageous battle with mesothelioma came to an end. Despite his prognosis of 3 to 9 months, he had survived for 2 years. There is no doubt that this would not have been possible without the chemotherapy therapy treatments he received. I will forever be grateful for the gift of time this gave us.