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Mesothelioma Survivor Stories

Asbestos cancer is often considered to be a disease that offers no hope. It’s easy for patients to get discouraged when doctors can only offer a poor prognosis and a dim outlook. That is, until you hear about some asbestos-cancer survivor stories.

Many asbestos-cancer patients who were initially given a negative prognosis have proven that there’s more than one way to good health. Many of these patients shrugged off their initial diagnoses to make their own paths:

Paul Kraus | Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor

When Paul Kraus was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997, he refused to accept what the doctors said. They believed his cancer has spread so much that he only had weeks to live. Today, at age 69, Kraus is living a full life in Australia.

Kraus was exposed to asbestos as a young man when he worked near an asbestos factory for a summer job. As in most asbestos-cancer patients, the disease took decades to develop. By the time he was 52, the disease had spread and the prognosis was grim, his doctors said. He was told that any treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, would only be palliative. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, Kraus and his wife scoured medical journals. He started an anti-cancer diet that included whole foods, fresh fruits and organic vegetables. He started a juicing regime that he continues to this day and avoids processed and refined foods.

“I was fiercely determined to do everything I could to remain healthy and stay around for a while. My family needed me, and I had things to contribute to my fellow human beings. It was simply not my time,” Kraus says in his widely read book, “Surviving Mesothelioma and other Cancers.”

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Heather Von St. James | Asbestos Cancer Survivor

At age 36 and just months after giving birth to her daughter, Heather Von St. James started having high fevers and difficulty breathing. She was shocked when the doctors confirmed she had pleural mesothelioma.

She likely came in contact with asbestos as a young girl when her father came home from work at construction sites with white dust on his clothes. She later learned that dust was asbestos, and she was exposed to secondhand asbestos.

Von St. James was given three treatment options: do nothing, undergo the standard treatment, which includes radiation and chemotherapy, or have a radical surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. Since she was told she only had months to live, Von St. James opted for the new surgical procedure that could eliminate the disease. In an extrapleural pneumonectomy, physicians remove the injured lung and the lining surrounding it called the pleura.

Von St. James considers herself the poster child for optimism for all asbestos-cancer sufferers. She is continually fighting for asbestos awareness. Every year, on Feb. 2, Von St. James and her family celebrates LungLeavin’ Day, to commemorate her lifesaving surgery.

Judy Glezinski | Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor

Exposed to secondhand asbestos as a child, Judy Glezinski was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 1990 at age 48. She decided her best course of treatment was one that many choose -- conventional treatments combined with complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs). She underwent surgery to remove tumors and radiation treatment for pain relief. When the conventional treatments had worked as much as they could, she turned to CAM, which included dramatically changing her diet and lifestyle. She relied heavily on massage, juiced mangosteens and her faith.

Glezinski continued her everyday routines, which included gardening, and always had a positive attitude. She died nearly 20 years after being diagnosed.

Shortly after she died, a book chronicling her experiences, “Surviving Mesothelioma: Making Your Own Miracle,” was published. It recounted Glezinski’s courageous and inspirational battle:

“For Judy, a mesothelioma diagnosis was the beginning of a journey, not the end of one.”

Kasie Coleman | Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor

As the owner of Sugar Belle Bakery in Baton Rouge, Kasie Coleman is surrounded by sugary perfection -- pralines, cakes and other delightful confections. It’s a far cry from 2010, when she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.

Coleman was a pharmaceutical sales representative when she was diagnosed with the disease. She thinks she was exposed to asbestos as a child when her high school was demolished. Initially, doctors said she had weeks, perhaps months, to live. Coleman would have none of that.

Coleman visited several physicians before she started an aggressive treatment regime that included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Twice she underwent a new treatment called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC, which bathes the abdominal area in hot chemotherapy.

During her recovery, she started baking to pass time. By the time she was in remission, she decided to open her business. Today, Coleman is planning a second location of Sugar Belle. She is married and has two sons, ages 10 and 5.

Tim Crisler | Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor

Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002, Tim Crisler was ready to throw in the towel. At age 45, he felt like he didn’t have the energy it would take to fight the disease and felt any medical interventions weren’t worth the time. That’s when his 17-year-old daughter stepped in. She wrote him a long, heartfelt letter that propelled him into action.

Crisler traveled to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and had an extrapleural pnemonectomy to remove one of his damaged lungs and some of the lining around it. While recovery was painful, he’s now watching his children grow. He enjoys riding his motorcycle and traveling.

Crisler thinks he developed asbestos cancer as a result of working with asbestos cement when he was younger.

Wayne Neal | Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor

When Wayne Neal was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1991, he turned to the most unusual elixir -- red tart cherries.

For more than 35 years, Neal worked as an electrician in Cincinnati and often handled insulation. He was diagnosed with the disease decades later. After his doctors gave him a scant few months to live, Neal turned to the cherries.

Neal has always believed in the holistic way of fighting disease. The red tart cherries are known to be rich in antioxidants, which may reduce inflammation and free radicals that are linked to cancer. Today, Neal, who is in his 80s, still eats those cherries.

How to Improve Your Survival Rate

From conventional medicine to holistic measures, there are many ways to improve the outcome of an asbestos-cancer diagnosis. However, there are several standard methods that all patients should consider:

  • Seek Treatment from Cancer Specialists - Physicians who specialize in asbestos-cancer treatments are the best source for information.
  • Take advantage of Available Treatment Options - Do your research. Talk to your doctor. Find out which treatment is best for you and why.
  • Enroll in Clinical Trials - These often offer the greatest hope for some patients.
  • Diet and Exercise - Don’t discount the power of a healthy diet and exercise.

Hope for Patients and Family Members

With a growing number of asbestos-cancer patients becoming asbestos-cancer survivors, it is clear there is more hope than ever before. Today, asbestos cancer isn’t the life sentence it once was. Modern technology and advances in scientific study have made asbestos-cancer treatments more effective. This is allowing patients to live full lives with the disease.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer, don’t give up hope. Contact our Patient Advocates today for more information.