The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Shelia Philyaw, the Advocate of the Month for March. In an interview with Shelia, we learned how cancer has affected her family, with mesothelioma affecting her mother. As a nurse, Shelia has been a key caregiver for her family and wanted to share her story, knowledge and support with the MCA community.

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

Shelia Philyaw: I am a retired registered nurse and have worked with cancer patients and their families throughout my career. My paternal grandfather had prostate cancer, a paternal aunt had colon cancer, a maternal uncle had bone cancer, and my mother suffered from mesothelioma cancer. Being in the field of caring, I was enabled to be a strong support for my family, as well as caregiver for my mom.

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

Shelia: I have learned so much about mesothelioma, I feel like an expert. I also believe support systems are very important for the patient, family and primary caregivers. Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and if one life can be spared, then I am happy. My faith in God is stronger, He gave me 21 months to tell my Mom goodbye, give her love and the best care possible.

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

Shelia: Research and clinical trial participation is imperative to move forward to find the cure for all cancers. Mesothelioma is so rare statistically that we must be proactive with this Alliance to get more done.

Unfortunately, there comes a time to let go and families need support through this process. Cherish every moment with a loved one because in the blink of an eye, they may be gone!

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

Shelia: My motivation to MCA Advocate of the Month was to honor the memory of my mother who died Dec. 14, 2010 from mesothelioma. She was my best friend and mentor.

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

Shelia: Awareness of asbestos and what diseases it can cause, especially mesothelioma is imperative. Other than commercials by lawyers, there is limited information for the public.

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

Shelia: I want anyone who has mesothelioma or their family to be compassionate, trust in the medical professionals, do your own research, talk to someone who has been in the same or a similar situation, lean on others, and have faith.