Advocate of the Month – April 2014 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Sara Gapasin for sharing her story about how asbestos exposure affected her family’s life as the April Advocate of the Month. Asbestos-related cancer took the life of her grandfather, breast cancer claimed her grandmother, and Sara also lives with her own disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis. Being no stranger to health adversity, Sara still shares a message of hope. Read on to learn Sara’s story and share it to help raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos.

It is a great honor to be featured as the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance’s Advocate of the Month! I feel inadequate at receiving this honor. This past year I was writing a blog about my experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis (before I had to stop due to RA) and I was approached by mesothelioma survivor Heather, who shared her incredible story of survival with me. Her story touched me personally as my maternal grandfather had passed away from lung cancer from exposure to asbestos when I was very young.

My grandfather worked in construction during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s to pay for college and, unfortunately, the materials used at that time contained asbestos. He developed an asbestos spot on his lung, which his doctors did not diligently observe and it eventually metastasized and led to his untimely death at the age of 65. Though I was young when he passed, the ripples of his early demise can still be felt every holiday and in the many everyday happenings that trigger memories of him for my grandmother and mother.

That is why when Heather approached me with her own story of how she developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos, I felt personally drawn to it and felt compelled to share it. Heather is just one of the many “female warriors” who have approached me since I started blogging. I have received messages and emails from so many amazing women battling different types of cancers and diseases, it has been truly touching. Cancer has not just been limited to my grandfather, my paternal grandmother passed away from breast cancer in 2008. Due to my family experience, along with my own increased risk to develop certain cancers like lymphoma as a person with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have learned to enjoy every moment of life with my family and loved ones.

Though cancer has been fatal in my family, it is important to remember that a diagnosis is not a death sentence. You just have to look at all the amazing stories of survival out there, like Heather who was given 15 months to live in 2005. Her story like so many others, is truly inspirational and gives hope to the many people battling cancer and mesothelioma. That is why the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and other organizations like it, are so very important as they spread hope for patients and work to increase awareness about the stories in addition to their advocacy work.