Advocate of the Month – February 2015 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to welcome Tanita Taylor to our blog as February’s Advocate of the Month. Tanita is a proud mother of 2 and shares her experiences on her blog Just Motherhood. Today, Tanita shares the story of how mesothelioma affected her grandmother’s life and her family’s life.

I want to say thank you for letting me share my story about my granny. Going through photos and speaking to my mum about her has been extremely surreal but also therapeutic. I’ve faced many emotions, and through this experience I’ve learned to not let a circumstance shape you; instead, let it teach you, encourage you, and help you grow.

I write this hoping that it will help others.

My granny passed away in 1981, when my mother was just 19 years old. I never got to meet her. I would have loved to hug her, hold her, thank her, talk to her, learn from her, and most of all take her hand and love her. But, I will never get that chance because of mesothelioma. It killed my granny, and stole any chance I ever had of having a relationship with her. All I can do is dream about what it would have been like to do all those things that granddaughters do with their grannies.

For most of her adult life, my granny worked in a clothing factory in South Africa. My mother believes this is where my granny was exposed to asbestos, but an investigation was never opened with the company. My granny first developed bronchitis, which progressed into pleurisy. When she wasn’t getting any better, she finally went to the doctor. That is when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given just three months to live.

Her time in the hospital was very short; she stayed in for about a month and was given a course of chemotherapy. The doctors decided to stop the chemotherapy as it was making her very ill and was more harmful to her long term. She was moved to her sister’s house to spend her last days and my mum also moved in to care for her.

It took three months from diagnosis until she passed away. My mum remembers the last months went rapidly, as if in a blink of an eye she was gone. My mum was never ready to let her mum go. At just 19, her mum was all she had.

I will never be able to fathom how heart wrenching this must have been for my mum to have to go through at such a young age. She was left alone in the world.

After going through the memories of my granny with my mum, I decided to write my granny a letter:

Dear Granny,

I haven’t met you yet, but I will, and I look forward to that day.

But before I do I wanted to tell you that sometimes in the dark, I lay in my bed, with my eyes open, and wait for you, in hopes you might talk to me and I might hear your soft voice.

But I don’t…

I am sad that I never had the chance to meet you, to spend time with you, to enjoy your company and laugh with you. To hear all those silly stories of my mum growing up, and what she was a like as a little girl. I won’t ever get that. And it breaks my heart.

I am sad, but I have to remember how lucky I am. I get to watch my little girl Sophia with my mum; they laugh, they talk and Sophia tells the most imaginative stories. She adores everything about her granny. I may have missed out on experiencing this with you, but getting to watch it, and for Sophia to be as lucky as she is to have her granny here with her, makes me the proudest mum and daughter. I feel so honoured to be experiencing their joy, because their joy is my joy.

Granny, even though I didn’t get to create this joy with you, I will always think of you and never forget you because your memory lives in my heart, and mesothelioma cannot take that away from me.

Memories are all I have. I look at your picture and I do know you, you’re the courageous beautiful woman that raised my mother. You gave her the love and tenderness she needed to raise me. And for that I am so grateful. She now has the beautiful gift that you and I missed out on, and she has taken it on with her whole heart. She is the best granny in the world.

She has done you proud, Granny, she has raised three beautiful daughters, and has two delightful grandchildren. We are all fighters; we will always think of you and be happy that we have memories. Because at least we have something left of you. We can’t be angry forever. We can’t beat ourselves up forever. It is not our fault; there is nothing we could have done then.

But now… now we have the chance to make a change. We have HOPE and we raise awareness. My heart if full of love for you granny who I would do anything for, so with all the love in the world anything is possible. Let’s make a cure possible. Let’s spread awareness.

I love you granny and I will spread awareness for you and for every other sufferer in the world.

There is hope out there, there are survivors. You can survive; you’re not just a statistic. You are you. To anyone reading this no matter your circumstances I want to say: “Never give up on yourself.” I think my granny would like you to know that too.