December Advocate of the Month – Two Words No Family Should Ever Have to Hear logo

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance would like to thank Lana Barhum for sharing her story about her brother Moe’s battle against peritoneal mesothelioma as December’s Advocate of the Month. Getting news of a mesothelioma diagnosis is shocking, but not knowing where and when Moe’s exposure to asbestos occurred makes the diagnosis even tougher to take. Please read Lana’s story and help her support organizations that support asbestos victims!

Entering my brother’s hospital room two days before Thanksgiving 2010, I couldn’t have predicted that this day would be the last day I would hear my brother speak or see him moving about. I knew that when his doctors spoke the words “peritoneal mesothelioma” that the chances of him going into remission were small. Those words were now distressing my family and breaking my mother’s heart. I had heard those words before but in the past, they seemed to be meant for someone else and not my younger brother.

My brother Moe was only 31 years old when he was tragically taken away from us on December 20, 2010. His life ended before he really had an opportunity to truly enjoy it. He had not yet gotten an opportunity to marry a soul mate or have children. His life ended because of someone else’s disregard for life. My mother lives every parent’s worst nightmare because she outlived her child. My siblings and I lost our brother and our friend and his nephews and nieces lost their uncle.

My brother never worked in an asbestos-related industry. How he was exposed to asbestos is mystery and the only way he would have developed the disease is by being exposed. Moe never had the opportunity to find out that his cancer was caused by asbestos fibers invading his body and that this cancer that was 100% preventable but once person is exposed to asbestos, there is no way to counteract their developing the disease.

Peritoneal mesothelioma are two words no family should ever have to hear. It is one heck of a terrifying and debilitating disease and my family saw that first hand. When my brother was diagnosed, he was told that the odds were against him. Cytoreductive surgery and Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy were the only options given to us. That surgery was scheduled the day before Thanksgiving 2010 and Moe never recovered from that nine hour long surgical procedure.

In just a few short months, the symptoms had come on and when doctors finally figured it out why, my brother’s chances of going into remission were slim. The doctors told us that Moe had six months to live but they believed the surgery would give us more time with him. He survived the surgery but his body’s vital systems started to shut down and we watched him suffer and deteriorate away. Six weeks later, Moe was gone and there was deep sadness and emptiness in our hearts.

You can never truly come to terms with watching a loved one suffer as my brother did. The emptiness we continue to feel is immeasurable. To the big corporations that have and continue to expose people to asbestos, my brother was a mere statistic and so are the millions who have developed the disease and those who have died as a result. What those corporations don’t seem to care about is that that young man who was taken was my little brother and he was a very important part of my life and, now, I don’t have a present or future with him. I don’t get to see him marry, I don’t get to be an aunt to his children, and he does not get to watch his nephews grow up. All because of the two words that no family should ever have to hear – peritoneal mesothelioma.

Nothing can bring my brother or the countless others who have died from asbestos cancers back. However, there are some great organizations out there giving asbestos victims and their families a voice through raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos and working towards banning it in the United States and worldwide. Please support organizations like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, The Meso Foundation, and the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in order to continue to spread public awareness and support legislation that protects victims and puts a ban on asbestos use.