Today, as I was whirling up some leafy green stuff in my food processor, I began to think of that day, when my ex-husband called. That was just a little over eleven years ago.
“You’d better sit down. I have something to tell you.”
Yeah, it wasn’t what you might think. It was worse. I sat down.
“I have mesothelioma,” he said. He told me that this wretched cancer was a killer, with a nearly 100% mortality rate. My daughter’s daddy was diagnosed with this disease in 2002. It looked hopeless, with the road to the merest possibility of recovery, a gut-wrenching, painful, chemical laden, massive surgical undertaking. Bob wanted to give up. He was forty-two then. Our daughter Liss, was nine.
I was shocked, then scared, and finally mad, all in the span of about a minute and a half. “You just look in her eyes, and tell her you’re leaving,” I dared him.
He sighed. He told me all he would have to do. I countered with how important he was, that she needed him. He agreed to try.
The disease had been developing a long time, probably twenty years or more, since he was in his early twenties, when he was exposed to asbestos as a mechanic, while under a grimy car, servicing the brakes.
He qualified for experimental chemo, because his survival was unlikely. (The drug used to treat Bob, is now being used in cancer treatment.) He was also treated with a form of radiation called Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, then had a pneumonectomy (the entire affected lung removed) as well as the removal of a portion of the pericardium (the lining of heart). After more than a year a various treatments, totaling nearly a million dollars, he lived. He has one lung. He does pretty well, but his life is definitely different than it was before.
Bob doesn’t work. He gets tired easily. He takes longer to recover from illnesses. He just can’t do some things he used to do. A while back, he helped me move a small table, just across the garage. After we set it down, he leaned on the table, ghostly pale, gulping in ragged breaths. Then he smiled, trying to reassure me, telling me he’d be alright in just a minute. Even with those limitations, he’s made a new life for himself. He watched his elementary aged daughter grow into a beautiful, young woman.
Our daughter Liss turned twenty this year. She’s in college and engaged to be married. She navigated her childhood, with her Daddy and I raising her, with him video taping her choir concerts, with she and him running a sound board together, in their local church. Liss, her dad and her grandparents took a Disney Caribbean cruise a few years back. Today she is happy, simply grateful for every year she has had with her dad. And, he has fun on his own too.
He has this hot red sports car. A Nissan GTR. He takes the searing, barely-street-legal thing to the track, and drives it like a man with new lease on life. He records music in his dream sound studio, located in his home. He is connected in his church community. He likes to help people. He’s one of those guys who can fix anything. With a brush of his hands and a nod of his head, he’ll fix you right up.
Every year he gets a CAT (Computerized Tomography) scan, and twice he’s gotten something called a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, an imaging tool used to take a gander at the lungs. So far, all scans have come back clear. So far, so good.
Thanks Bob, for hanging in there. For deciding to stay, and to keep living, and to keep loving, when it would have been easier to leave. I look forward to seeing you walk Liss down the aisle, and also snapping a photo of you holding your grandchild.
Mesothelioma Awareness Day is September 26th, right before Bob turns fifty-four.
The link below is from a fellow health conscious blogger, in case you want to know more about this disease.
Be Very Well,
P.S. Bob’s story is in no way typical. According the Pleural Mesothelioma Center 10.5% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma live more than three years. 6.4% live beyond five years. I could find no statistic for survival beyond ten years. There are of course many contributing factors such as age, general health and at what stage the cancer is found. Bob found his cancer at stage one. He had another illness, that allowed for the early discovery.