The Air That I Breathe



In… out…

All day, every day, my lungs breathe and my heart pumps and I don’t give it a second thought. Most of us don’t until something makes us think about it.

The blogosphere is a truly amazing place. I have met some incredible people since starting this blog, and I’ve found their amazing blogs in turn. Sheila Connolly blogged HERE about her diagnosis of lung cancer. I recently blogged (HERE) and (HERE) about a patient of mine who is dealing with pancreatic cancer. Through that connection, I was contacted by Cameron Von St. James, whose wife, Heather, is a mesothelioma survivor.

If you’re like me, most of what you know of mesothelioma is limited to what you’ve heard on television ads by mesothelioma attorneys. I receive occasional notices of my employer’s periodic work to remove asbestos from the bowels of the hospital.

As a physical therapist, I’ve never had a patient with a diagnosis of mesothelioma, although I have had some with asbestosis (scarring of the lungs without actual cancer) and other chronic pulmonary diseases.

Through my contact with Cameron and Heather, I’ve learned A LOT. I’ve learned that mesothelioma, the actual cancer, can affect the lungs (the most common type), the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) and the heart (pericardial mesothelioma).

I’ve also learned that mesothelioma is not always terminal, though treatment is, by all accounts, arduous, often involving a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

I’ve learned that certain folks have likely had more exposure than the rest of us: veterans, especially Navy veterans serving on ships and in shipyards where asbestos was used; rescuers and workers at Ground Zero right after the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 because the North Tower had tons of asbestos that were blown into the atmosphere when the tower fell; workers in many industrial settings where asbestos was everywhere.

Sadly, like second-hand smoke, mesothelioma can be second-hand as well if spouses and children were exposed to fibers brought home on hair and clothing. That’s how Heather was exposed. You can see more of her story HERE.

Unlike most of the cancers many of us are familiar with, this is a type of cancer that does have an identifiable source in almost all cases, and much of what you will find on-line is tied to various mesothelioma attorneys. Treatment is expensive. It sometimes involves travel far from home and often isn’t covered by regular health insurance. I’m not a fan of attorneys or lawsuits in many situations, but this particular industry has been culpable for decades of deceit about the dangers of asbestos.

September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. I, along with other bloggers, have committed to posting about mesothelioma in an effort to educate more people about this awful disease. I’m posting my blog a little early so you have time to read and share prior to the 26th.

For more information, please check out these sources:


As you breathe in and out, take a moment to appreciate the miracle of being able to do just that.


copyright 2014 Caren J. Werlinger



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