Advocate of the Month – February 2013 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Kayla Hammons, the Advocate of the Month for February. Below is an interview with Kayla about how mesothelioma affected her stepdad Ron and her way of life. Kayla has been active in our Facebook community and continues to support others affected and spread the message of MCA.

MCA: Has cancer affected you in some way? If so, in what way? Tell us about your experience.

Kayla Hammons: My stepdad Ron was my hero. He was the strongest man I knew. In January of 2012, he began to have chest pains. We thought he was having a heart attack. He had smoked for years and had just celebrated his first year with no smoking. As the months went on, he became worse. He started to have leg pain, which the doctor attributed to fibromyalgia. The VA hospitals ran test after test from CT scans to nuclear scans and found nothing.

We finally took him to St. Francis Medical Center. They found that he had a softball size lymph node in his abdomen. It took 3 times before they would actually hospitalize him. The oncologist there ordered a needle aspiration. He said Ron’s symptoms went along with lymphoma, which is one of the easiest cancers to fight. When the tests came back, my parents went to Dr. Sobti. He told Ron that he had 6 months to live. He didn’t know what kind of cancer Rob had, no one did.

My mom and Ron immediately asked for a second opinion. We went with another oncologist. I knew he needed someone special to take care of him. I found Dr. Wong who specialized in rare cancers and we got an appointment. We thought this would be it. In the meantime, Ron wanted to do things naturally, so we bought every cancer fighting vitamin and immune system booster in the store. My mother began to work nights, so I took the responsibility to take care of him at night. By this time, the tumor on his esophagus made it to where all he could eat was smoothies. One night, he asked for a smoothie. As I walked back to hand it to him, he looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “who are you?” I hope I will never feel that hurt again. When I walked back into the room, he asked, “where have you been?” I never knew if he knew who I was.

By the time the new appointment came, we prepared him for the drive. Dr. Wong was so nice and intelligent. He looked at us and said “you have mesothelioma“. At the time we didn’t know what that was. Dr. Wong wanted Ron to get into the hospital to get his numbers up and start chemo. While he was in the hospital, he and my mom got married and I was a witness. That was June 1. The morning of June 3rd he began to have trouble breathing. He died that morning with close family around him.

MCA: How has this shaped you as the person you are today?

Kayla: Since Ron’s death, I’ve had to grow up tremendously. At 20 years old, I’ve learned so much in the months since. He taught me to accept people for who they are. I now know that special people come into our lives rarely. Don’t take them for granted.

MCA: What was your motivation to become the MCA Advocate of the Month?

Kayla: My mom and I have wanted to get Ron’s story out so that it could maybe help someone going through what we did. I believe that getting his story out for people to hear will keep his memory alive.

MCA: If you could say one thing to the world about cancer or mesothelioma specifically, what would it be?

Kayla: Mesothelioma is a killer. I feel it is the worst kind of cancer because often times you don’t know until it’s too late.

MCA: Is there anything else you would like to say to the MCA community?

Kayla: I would like to tell the MCA that we are all linked by this horrible disease and that if we all work together, mesothelioma won’t have a chance.