Advocate of the Month – July 2013 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Andreas Heydeck for sharing his story as the Advocate of the Month for July. Andreas’ father Peter was a victim of malignant pleural mesothelioma, but his legacy lives on through his family. Below is Andreas story about how his father’s mesothelioma affected him.

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

My father, Peter Heydeck, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma the summer of 2012, caused by asbestos. He had worked in the Swedish steel industry with a lot of different things, since the age of 15. After he got his diagnosis, we talked a lot about what it was like “back in the days” when the dangers of asbestos wasn’t known, and how they used it. What now seems horrific was then every day use. The use of asbestos in the steel industry even included gloves, aprons, and other clothings.

My father started to cough about a year before his diagnosis, but didn’t think much of it and just said it was a cold that wouldn’t give. One day when he was short of breath, he finally agreed to go to a doctor’s office, who immediately sent him to a hospital and admitted him. They drained more than 5 liters of fluids from his one lung and x-rayed him. Despite the fact that he had pleural thickening and intermittent fevers, they ruled out cancer. Two long and inefficient months later, the doctors still didn’t know what was causing the fevers and recurring lung fluids, and sent him off to the university hospital in Uppsala. Three days after that, he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.

They immediately started him on Alimta® and Carboplatin, and we saw dramatic improvements in a few weeks, which inspired hope. The new x-rays showed that the pleural thickening had been reduced, but instead his immune system almost shut down and he had a very low blood count, so he had to take a break from the chemo until his body could recover.

During this time, the cancer grew and also spread to the other lung, his back and heart. Two weeks after they started him on chemo again, he passed away at the age of 63, with his family around him.

My dad tried his best to stay positive through it all, and he fought until the very end.

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

These kind of experiences are life changing. All of the sudden you actually stop and think about what’s important in life, and you learn to appreciate the small things. You also learn to prioritize what’s worth putting energy into, and what’s not. And even though our family is spread across the country, we are closer together now than we were before.

I’m trying to be the kind of father to my son the way he was to me, and I can only hope that one day my own kids will see me the way I see my dad.

MCA: If you were affected by cancer, what are the two biggest things you learned through this experience?

  • If you’re feeling dubious about your doctor, act on it. This one shouldn’t be on the list if we lived in an ideal world. But we don’t, it still have to be there.
  • Talk about it, get it out in the open. There are so so many questions, and even if there are more questions than answers, it’s important to talk about it.

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

I want to honour the memory of my dad. This also gives me an opportunity to contribute to the mesothelioma community. Even if it’s not much, it’s still something.

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

I could use this space to spew out my hatred for cancer in general, and mesothelioma in particular, but I won’t. Instead I would want to urge everyone out there to take care of each other. Try to focus on the positive things in life. Hug your loved ones, and tell them that you love them.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one is diagnosed, make sure to read up and inform yourself on the situation. Try to find hope even in the darkest of times. And if you are in a situation where a loved one has passed on, then as long as you remember them and think of them – they exist.