Living With Mesothelioma -My Diary- A great Article in the Medway Messenger Im pleased with the way Im quoted

Woke up after a lovely sleep last night but then I had gone to bed really late.

There wasn’t the snow they had predicted although the South West did a bit but it soon melted.

Had a surprise and there was a Article printed on the Lordswood residents wall on Facebook

Page 9 Medway Messenger Friday 8th Feb 2013. Special thanks to Mavis Nye


Well pleased with the write up and I hope it helps in the residents campaign.

The word cancer though always shocks me as I call it Meso. silly really.

Figures obtained by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers have revealed that Medway has the second highest death rate for asbestos related cancer, specifically mesothelioma.

The asbestos death rate is 6.5 per 100,000 people whereas the national average is 2.5. Between 2006 – 2010 106 people from Medway died of mesothelioma, making it a national hotspot for asbestos deaths.

Many people were employed at Chatham Dockyard where asbestos was widely used for ship repairs and building. There was also the British Uralite Factory in Higham, Medway where a number of asbestos-based products such as chimney pots and pipes were made from raw asbestos.

The asbestos deaths figure in Medway, Kent and beyond is likely to rise given the prevalent use of asbestos until it was finally banned in the 1980s.

The asbestos deaths statistics whilst shocking are perhaps unsurprising with Medway being well known as the industrial hub of Kent. The Health and Safety Executive has listed the 10 occupations which pose the highest risk of suffering from an asbestos related disease. They are Metal Plate Workers, Vehicle Body Workers, Plumbers and Gas Fitters, Carpenters, Electricians, Sheet Metal Workers, Electrical Plant Operators, Production Fitters, Construction Workers and Electrical Engineers.

The increasing number of asbestos deaths in Kent and Medway has led to Frances McKay, a Macmillan Cancer Nurse, to start a monthly support group for victims of mesothelioma/other fatal asbestos disease and their families. (This is last year and since then Frances has seen her job go in the cut back. This is a great shame as she worked so hard)

Just been doing a bit of research and come up with a site where My friend christine and I have been written about. Sometimes our stories are picked up and used. I really dont mind and if it helps in anyway Im ok with it

I realised it is a write up about our Daily Mail article but nice to see a free book is issued with it

Anna Hodgekiss | | Posted 8/27/12

Geoffrey Newton had always prided himself on his DIY skills.

Even aged 81, he was fitting a new kitchen and bathroom in his home.

‘Over the years he’d done everything from building a boat to converting an old school house into our home,’ says his wife Pat, 82, a former GP.

‘He was brilliant at DIY. Nothing was ever too much of a challenge.’

Unfortunately, it was this passion that most likely led to Mr Newton’s death in May.

He was suffering from mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the lungs — caused by exposure to asbestos.

Experts say that even a few hours’ exposure to the toxic fibres can be enough to trigger the condition later in life.

And a few hours was all it had taken for Mr Newton, a leading orthopaedic surgeon, to remove an old central heating boiler packed with white asbestos from his house in Burton-on-Trent.

‘It was 37 years ago, but I still remember all the white dust that came out with it,’ says Pat.

‘At the time, it was known that brown and blue asbestos (there are three types) were dangerous, but not white, so we assumed the dust was harmless.

‘But it’s the only occasion we can think of that Geoffrey was exposed to it, so that must have been the trigger.’

While asbestos has left a cruel legacy for families such as the Newtons, experts are warning it is still very much a risk, mainly due to thousands of homeowners who could unwittingly disturb asbestos while embarking on home renovations.

The number of people dying each year from mesothelioma has nearly quadrupled in the past 30 years.

The Department of Health estimates deaths will peak in 2016 because the danger of asbestos became widely known only in the mid-Seventies, and the time lag between exposure and diagnosis is, typically, 30 to 40 years.

Crucially, with asbestos remaining in millions of buildings across the country, many of us are still exposing ourselves to asbestos without realising it, says Dr John Moore-Gillon, an honorary medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation (BLF).

‘Many people think that because asbestos stopped being used in industry many years ago, it’s no longer an issue,’ he says.

‘The problem today is that people can disturb asbestos in their home without  realising it is there.

‘They embark on DIY projects — or hire a few local lads to do some demolition work without an initial survey — and unwittingly expose everyone to it.

‘Cases will continue to rise if precautions aren’t taken.

‘What is worrying is that we barely have the resources to treat the condition, so if numbers continue to rise then there could be a huge strain in terms of treating everyone.’

The BLF says asbestos was widely used in commercial buildings and homes until 1999, when it was banned, so any home built or refurbished before this date could contain asbestos.

‘We don’t want to cause panic,’ says Dr Moore-Gillon.

‘It’s not the case that one fibre will kill you or that having a house with asbestos will put you at risk. It’s disturbing the asbestos that’s the problem.

‘Usually, if it is found, the right thing is to seal it away and leave it alone.

‘If the area needs to be demolished, then it can be — but with appropriate precautions.’

Accordingly, the British Lung Foundation has launched a campaign, Take 5 To Stay Alive, urging the public to take five minutes to consider whether asbestos could be an issue before embarking on any work.

Christine Winter, of the Independent Asbestos Training Providers, which champions safety and awareness when working with asbestos, adds: ‘I am amazed at how many people have absolutely no knowledge of the danger they place themselves in when they start renovations.’

And, cautions the BLF, don’t assume trades-people know about asbestos and the risks. If you are the homeowner, you have a responsibility to protect them from exposure to fibres.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral.

Large-scale mining during the late 19th century allowed industries such as construction and shipbuilding to take advantage of its affordability, sound absorption and fire and heat resistance.

It became most popular as a building material in the Fifties, finding its way into ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers, sprayed coatings, water tanks, and floor and garage roof tiles.

The dangers of asbestos to lung health began to be established from the Forties, but only became widely known in the late Seventies.

Mesothelioma has a strong association with exposure to asbestos fibres, and is extremely rare in its absence.

The disease affects the lining of the lungs and is almost always fatal, with survival from point of diagnosis usually between six months and three years.

There were more than 2,300 deaths from mesothelioma in Britain in 2009 — more than from cervical cancer or malignant melanoma — and the incidence is still rising due to the 30 to 40-year time lag between exposure and disease development.

Exposure to asbestos fibres can also cause lung cancer. It develops in the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, and can grow within the lungs and spread outside.

‘Asbestos fibres are very small and easy to inhale, and once in the lungs they seem to alter the way in which cells multiply and divide,’ says Dr Moore-Gillon.

‘It’s probable that asbestos alters DNA and increases the likelihood of producing cells of abnormal structure and function. ‘

Men account for 80 per cent of mesothelioma cases. It is less common in women because they don’t tend to work in industry.

Smoking increases the risk of developing an asbestos-related cancer by up to 75 times.

Symptoms of the disease include breathlessness, pains in the chest and a persistent cough.

‘The overwhelming majority will not be signs of mesothelioma, but it’s always worth mentioning to your doctor if you have — or suspect you may have — come into contact with asbestos,’ says Dr Moore-Gillon.

There is no cure, though early diagnosis can increase the possibility of being able to use surgery to tackle the cancer.

Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but these are largely to keep symptoms under control for as long as possible.

Geoffrey Newton lived 18 months after his diagnosis.

‘It was all very quick,’ says his widow Pat.

‘He developed breathlessness, which turned out to be pleural effusion — a build-up of fluid in the lungs. From there mesothelioma was diagnosed.

‘He started off saying he wanted to book a train to Switzerland (to the Dignitas clinic), but then calmed down and did very well for 18 months after his diagnosis.

‘He even insisted on fitting the kitchen and bathroom before he died. Even though he was frail, he got our daughter Sarah, who’s 37, to help with the heavy lifting.

‘It was all i incredibly bad luck. We have friends who worked as ships engineers and were heavily exposed to it, but they are fine.’

Many people who have been exposed unwittingly may seek compensation, but such cases are fraught legally, says Christine Winter.

‘The problem lies in the proof of where the individual was exposed to asbestos, because of the long latency period before the consequences present.

‘If work-related, the employer may no longer be trading or may not have had insurance for asbestos exposure.

‘This will have a massive health impact in the future unless we can get the message across that the dangers of asbestos still exist.’

Someone else who knows all too well of its impact is Mavis Nye, from Whitstable, Kent.

In the early Sixties, her husband Ray was a shipwright in Chatham dockyards, and she would wash his clothes when he came home.

‘They were always covered in asbestos dust — we used to joke he looked like a snowman when he came through the door,’ says Mavis, 71.

‘We had no idea how lethal it was.’

Fed up of working in a dusty environment, Ray left the dockyard in 1963.

Years later, with knowledge of how lethal asbestos was, the couple feared for Ray’s health. But, in fact, it was Mavis who became unwell.

‘We were on holiday in Spain in 2009 when I felt very tired and breathless walking up a hill that I’d normally have no problems with,’ she says.

Back home, her GP arranged an immediate chest X-ray, and Mavis was called back to the hospital for scans.

‘And then, boom — I was told I had mesothelioma and given three months to live.

‘I came home, arranged my funeral, threw out most of my clothes and bought new things for the house so Ray wouldn’t have to deal with it all.’

Mavis has survived three years, which she attributes to large doses of chemotherapy.

Her tumours have shrunk, and she can have further chemotherapy if they begin to grow again —Thats the story 2013 no change yet xx


Rays Blog


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