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“My mom was a very strong person,” Lora Frymoyer recently told the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. “Her name was Kathryn. Kitty is what she was called.”
Kitty was strong despite – or perhaps even because of – the various adversities she faced throughout her life. “She lost her eyesight from macular degeneration soon after falling and breaking her back,” Lora explained. “I often say she was dealt a bad hand.”
Even after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in her eighties, Kitty powered on, living with her husband and caring for both him and herself. “Her diagnosis of mesothelioma was made in May of 2011,” Lora said. “At that time she was 84 years old. She past away September 7, 2012. Up until 3 days before her death she was still independent, caring for her house and my dad. That is, as far as her vision impairment would allow.”
An Unexpected Diagnosis
Lora says that when her mother was diagnosed, everyone was in shock. “My first emotion when I was told was, ‘How the heck did she get that?’” Lora told the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.
Lora and her family had seen the commercials and were familiar with the cancer. Earlier in his life, Lora’s father had been diagnosed with asbestosis, a fibrosis of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos, due to his occupation.
“I did know about this disease, but thought of all people I would have thought my dad would have gotten it,” Lora recalled. “He was a plumber by trade.”
Her mother Kitty, however, did not work outside the home. “The doctors told us she got it from doing my father’s laundry and breathing in the fibers from his clothes,” Lora stated.
As it turns out, victims of secondary exposure are becoming increasingly more common these days. Many female relatives of men who work in mines, factories, construction sites, and other job locations where asbestos is used are developing mesothelioma due to secondary contact and inhalation of the fibers.
For Kitty, a loving wife and mother who took care of her family for many decades, that very devotion was what lead to her diagnosis and, eventually, her death.
Preparing for the Inevitable
Given her age and the progression of the disease, Lora and the rest of her family knew her mother did not have much time. “The doctors told her she had 18 months to live,” Lora remembered. “She made it 16 months.”
The care Kitty received was focused on relieving her pain and improving the quality of the life she had remaining. She underwent a procedure known as talc pleurodesis, in which surgical-grade talc was inserted into the pleural space (between the lungs and the chest wall) to reduce the buildup of fluid that often accompanies mesothelioma. Kitty also received a course of chemotherapy to slow down the cancer’s progress.
“We knew it was not a cure basically just a delay of the inevitable,” Lora recalled. “Mom was willing to do this – in her words, she wasn’t ready yet.”
The procedure gave her some time, but it was still a struggle. Nonetheless, Kitty continued to live at home with Lora’s father where she could be as comfortable as possible in familiar surroundings.
“She was on oxygen at home,” Lora explained, “but I am ever grateful because she really was not in pain.”
Then, just after Labor Day in 2012, Lora received a call from her father – something that happened rarely and only in emergencies. “He told me I better come to the house because Mom was upset. When I got there, her anxiety level was through the roof.”
Having been a registered nurse for 40 years, Lora knew what needed to happen next. “I took her pulse oxygen and she was oxygenated. I told her what she needed now I couldn't help her with, and I asked her if she was ready for hospice.”
Kitty agreed to go into hospice care that Wednesday, two days after Labor Day. She passed away quietly at two in the morning that Friday, not even two days later.
“We were all there with her at that moment,” Lora said.
Moving Forward and Raising Awareness
Today, Lora lives in Leesport, PA. She has two grown sons and six grandchildren. And she doesn’t want them – or anyone else – to be endangered by exposure to asbestos.
She wants to let others know about how terrible a disease mesothelioma is. Every year on her mother’s birthday, she posts a picture of her and writes about the terrible disease that killed Kitty.
In addition, she wants to spread the word “Keep educating the people and notify your congressman,” Lora declared. “Push for legislation to ban asbestos.”