Advocate of the Month – June 2014 logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank our June Advocate of the Month, Berit Brogaard. Berit’s grandfather suffered from malignant mesothelioma, which ultimately took his life too soon. Read Berit’s story below and help share her message for raising awareness.

My grandfather worked with materials containing asbestos. Asbestos is a set of microscopic silicate minerals that accumulate in the lining of the lungs and sometimes the stomach and the heart. It can be the cause of many lung, heart and abdominal diseases but the worst is malignant mesothelioma, a type of progressive cancer that only rarely is treatable. It is almost impossible to spot before it’s too late because its initial symptoms often are indistinguishable from a wide range of other conditions.

My grandfather died an untimely, slow and horrific death from malignant mesothelioma. When he was still much too young to die, he suddenly developed chest pain and a cough that would not pass. The doctors suspected allergies. When water started accumulating in his lungs, it was too late. He had a tube inserted into his chest to drain the fluid. But it did him little good. At that point he could barely breathe. He said in a whisper that he felt like he was drowning very slowly.

While he was sick, his beloved cat became fatally ill. My grandmother decided to have the cat euthanized to prevent it from suffering any further. When she told my grandfather, who was dying in the hospital, he said: “I wish I had been a cat. At least I wouldn’t have to suffer.” His suffering was unbearable.

After many months of near-choking, my grandfather finally passed away. I miss him very much. But what really hurts is the continual stream of mental images of him suffering immensely, seeing him cough up blood, seeing him struggle to breathe, seeing him wishing to die. No one should have to go through this. No one’s life should have to end this way.

When the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance reached out to me, I felt touched because I have seen what this terrible disease can do to a person. The main cause of the disease, and probably the only cause in adults, is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is still not banned in the US, and many old buildings include materials that contain asbestos. Please help spread awareness about what asbestos can do to our loved ones and help save lives in the future.