My Battle with Mesothelioma

I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2008.

My work
I worked in a copper gold mine,for eight years.
The mine was:

-a remote camp
-fly in
-2 weeks in and 2 weeks out schedule
-High altitude

I was training in a new position.There was a lot of walking , a lot of stairs and  I ran the equipment.  This was a very active position. I was older then the other operators. I felt this new position was too much for me. I just thought I was just out of shape. I was having oxygen starvation, feeling like I wanted to throw up, shortness of breath. I went to see the nurse, he said he couldn’t hear anything, maybe just take it easy.
I tried, took the stairs slower and walked the inclines easier. I finished that two weeks and stayed for a week of over time. It went better, but I finally talked to my boss and asked to go back to my other job.

When I got home I just thought I was overtired. After being away from home for three weeks, I had a lot to do. It seemed like I traveled all the time. This time home I went to see my son and his wife, in Vancouver. The week flew by and I wasn’t feeling too bad at the lower elevation. Trying to get a doctor’s appointment in a week, wasn’t easy. I was feeling better so I went back to work.

I was working night shift so I got up early and went to the gym. I did that for a few days. Afterwards I had to walk to my work area.  I started sleeping till just before my shift started. I persevered through the week and thought I would go see the nurse again on Tuesday. Well, Tuesday rolled around I discovered I was the Medical person on call.  So I needed to see myself.   I knew I had no answers, I had already diagnosed what I knew. I phoned my doctor’s office and had made an appointment for Thursday Morning. Which was the day after I get home. I only had two shifts of work left so I told my boss, I wasn’t feeling good. He agreed to have me just sit at the computer and the other person would do the checks and driving.

I thought I was in real trouble because the night I was going home. I got a call for assistance at the warehouse. there was an injured floor hockey player. I got there and realized I had to climb about a 100 stairs to get to him. By the time I climbed them I thought I was going to pass out. I examined him there and caught my breath and went to the Nurse’s office. That morning, I flew home and went to the doctor’s the next day. I left my husband at home and went to the doctors alone. She sent me straight to the hospital to get a chest x-ray. I parked in the 15 minute parking because it was only a quick x-ray.

I was waiting for the usual “You can go”.  The x-ray technician came out and told me to wait till she talked to my doctor. Five minutes later she came out and told me that my doctor wanted me to go straight to Emergency. I asked her why.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  She told me I had a collapsed lung and they were going to put in a chest tube. I said “What you have to be kidding. I’ll go home and drop my car off and come back with my husband. They wouldn’t let me leave the hospital. I ran into a friend of mine that worked at the hospital, she said she would call my husband for me. While I went to Emergency. I got in right away, there was no surgeon to put in the tube so they asked if I felt comfortable if a Thoracic student would put it in. One of the nurses that was helping me was my neighbor so I asked her if she would let him, she said “he was good.”  So within a half an hour I had a chest tube and I was on my way to 2nd floor.

My husband came into town about 40km away. He had to move my car before it got towed. Our neighbor’s wife drove it the 40km after she got off work.

I spent Thursday till Monday in the hospital. I had my first Cat Scan on Friday Morning. I spent the next week at home. I had an appointment with my doctor to get the stitches out.  She asked me to get another cat scan before I went back to work.  I called Monday to the X-ray department to see if they could get me in, before I went back to work Wednesday morning. They told me to bring a book and wait and they would get me in. It helps that I worked at the hospital for 15 years.

I went back to work. I picked up my messages from my phone at home. To my surprise, I had a message to call my doctor immediately, when I get this message. So I called immediately. Her receptionist made an appointment. My husband and the nurse and I called again to see if the nurse could talk to the doctor. The planes were delayed so they got us on a flight out. We got to the airstrip on the bus, the plane had just landed. Then the radio went off and the nurse told us to come back to camp. We were this close to getting out and now we have to take the long cold lonely ride back to camp. I had never gone all the way there and not gotten on the plane.

We got back to the nurse’s office just in time to talk to our doctor. She told me that there was fliud building up in my chest again. She had sent my Cat Scan to a Thoracic surgeon in Kelowna and we had a video appointment next Wednesday. So everything went back to work as normal work life for a week.

We arrived at the hospital in Williams lake for our video time. There was an elderly guy ahead of us. He was in a wheelchair with his family around him. So it was our turn, we went in, after we got introductions out of the way. The surgeon asked me if I had ever been exposed to asbestos. I said “No”.  My dad was in the Navy, by that time it had come out that there was asbestos inside ships in the 40-70’s. He thought,  I had had a light exposure, and I could have got it from his clothes.

By the time I left, I had instructions to go to Kelowna General on Monday. I was scheduled for a Cat Scan, blood tests, bone scan and a chest x-ray.
My biopsy was schedule for Tuesday @ 10 the next morning. I was in shock, one, for how fast things were going and two, where did this come from.

We arrived in Kelowna Sunday afternoon and checked into motel. The next morning I got up with such dread.  I was scared, and nauseous.  We went through the tests and answered a million question.  That night my husband made me a nice supper on the   bar- b-que at the motel,then we went out for ice cream at the Dairy Queen.

The next morning I felt more scared then I did the day before.  We went to the hospital, we bumped into the surgeon and his assistant at the coffee shop.  He told me not to worry they would take good care of me.  Told me he would see me in a few hours.

I woke up and the surgeon said that he  was 98% sure it was Mesothelioma but he had to wait for the final say from Vancouver, in a few days.  About 2 pm the next day he came in my room and said it was for sure, it was Mesothelioma.  He wanted to do Paridsis, (where they put talc and saline into your chest) this afternoon.  He said he should have done it yesterday but he wanted to be sure. So by 4 pm I was back in surgery.

I was in the hospital, my husband had gone for a walk.  He went over to the cancer clinic which is attached to the hospital.  He thought they could give him some ideas on what we were going to go through.  They told him that they would talk to him because I wasn’t a patient there.

While he was gone, a doctor that wasn’t any one I knew.  Came into my room, sat on the side of my bed beside me.  By this time I was able to move to a chair.  We sat there and she talked to me about what they had found and what treatment they were going to do.

During the 15 minute conversation, about how they could radiate the tumor because of all the vital organs  around the area.  They were going to set up Chemo.  I finally asked what was my prognosis. She told me to go home and get your affairs in order because I probably had six months to live. Nine months on the outside. I couldn’t cry I couldn’t say anything. All I kept doing was staring at the door willing my husband to come back and talk to this doctor. I didn’t think I knew what she was talking about how can I tell him.

We researched everything on line, set up a plan. I was in a room with a guy whose wife came over and talked to us about how to eat properly and how to be proactive not reactive.

I spent the next few days on chest suction and could disconnect if I had to get up. I started to wonder the halls and try to get my breath back.

I was discharged and we headed home to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. We started fighting this thing that had invaded our life. I got mad and thought I am going to fight YOU with every part of my being to my last breath.

After I got back on my feet. We found out that we had three weeks so we booked a trip to our house in Brasil. We booked it by 4 pm and got in the car and drove through the night and got to the airport in time for our flight. We flew through Houston, I couldn’t walk that far so Dave got me a wheelchair and pushed my around the airport and we went shopping.

We got back to Vancouver and drove through the night to get to Kelowna for our appointment at the cancer clinic. They were nice but not a lot of
concern. It was just a routine to them. They figured I was going home to die so they didn’t have to interact with us. They figured they would never see us again so why learn our names or give you that little extra. Little, did they know six years later I was still going to be alive and still going to be here for years longer.

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