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Category: Faces of Mesothelioma

Stress Woman

Discounting the Dangers of Asbestos Discounts the Value of My Father’s Life

The dangers of asbestos, even one exposure, are so frightening to me that I am paralyzed at the thought of someone coming in contact with it.  Even the potential that you could be exposed is enough to bring tears to my eyes and cause serious anxiety. This applies to anyone, even a stranger, but what do you do when someone you care about doesn’t take these dangers seriously?

It is so painful when someone you love, someone who has walked this horrible mesothelioma road along with you, fails to take into account the possible ramifications of what could be caused by their negligence.  My heart breaks for anyone who may come into contact with them who could also be exposed, and therefore, at risk.  I am angered by their utter disregard for the memory of my father who lost his life to mesothelioma; it almost feels like they’re saying he died in vain.

It hurts when you try to explain to someone why you are concerned and they brush it off, simply saying, “It’s fine, I was careful!” or, even worse, “You’re just being ridiculous.”  Is it fine that I’m left without a father, my mother without a husband, and my daughter without her grandfather?  Is it ridiculous that I want to spare others from what my family had to endure?  I don’t think so.

Some may say that this is overreacting, but to me, it feels like underreacting (if that’s a real thing).  Families are torn apart each and every day by this cancer that could have been prevented by the elimination and proper removal of asbestos.  If human lives were put in front of the dollar, we would be in a different situation right now with the continued spread of mesothelioma.

Sure, my words might cause some dissension, but I’m not afraid or ashamed to stand up for a cause that I believe in, one that is so real to me… too real.  So, please, don’t be afraid to fight.  Fight to be heard, fight to have your concerns addressed in a real way.  Fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Mobile Phone

Unplug and Just “Be” With Your Loved Ones

Let’s face it, we all do it. We’re sitting with a friend or family member, and we half-listen to what they’re saying because we’re looking at our phone or other device. Unfortunately, this has become our “new normal.” We rely so much on technology that we sometimes start to “unplug” our real relationships. Phone calls replace visits, text messages replace phone calls… what’s next?

When my Dad was first diagnosed with mesothelioma, I didn’t even have a smart phone. To log on to social media, I had to sit down at a computer. This, in terms of technology, feels like it was such a simpler time. By the time Dad was in the hospital for the final time, I had just gotten my first iPad. I remember sitting in the hospital with him while he slept, using it to play a game. I was very in tune to the fact that Dad needed me, and that he needed me to be truly present with him, so I was actually quite good about putting my device down when he was awake. I knew it was important for both of us.

Please try to remember that people, not technology, need you. When someone you care about is with you, no matter their physical condition, do your best to unplug. Make real memories; they are what will be with you for the long haul. No amount of “likes” can take the place of having a real moment with your loved one. I would give up my phone, computer, everything… if I had the chance to make one more memory with my Dad.

Keep this in mind as you are moving forward.  No amount of technology, no matter how life-like it may seem, can replace the company of your loved ones!

Feb Smitley with Jennifer wedding

Holding My Father’s Music Close to My Heart

My father never claimed to be a musician.  He said he just “played at” the guitar but loved singing and playing with his band. Dad began singing at Church when I was little, and he practiced constantly, his latest choice of song would be stuck in my head for days. Many Saturday mornings were spent with him at the Christian book store, listening to new music, carefully choosing one. He had specific criteria that he looked for when he decided on which song to pick. He loved songs that were a bit country, classic, and told a story.

I remember many times, listening to him sing, so full of pride that my eyes would fill with tears. It happened often, but always on Easter when he sang a song called “The Hammer.” It never failed that I would have to look away from him so that I wouldn’t sob. The powerful message of the music, coupled with the humility of the man singing it, were almost too much for me. Now, every time I think of that song, I instantly feel sad.

When I was little, Dad always sang “You Are My Sunshine” to me. It kind of became our song. On my wedding day, before he walked me down the aisle, he handed me a gold box containing a necklace with the lyric engraved on it. It is something that I will treasure forever.

Music means a lot to me, in that I find a lot of comfort in its message; it seems like, I too, enjoy a song with a story… another trait that I inherited from my father. It makes me smile, hearing ones that I would sing with Dad, or that he thought were funny or made no sense! It seemed like Dad always had a song in his heart, and that song exuded from him like a beautiful beam of sunshine.

I love having musical memories of someone who I loved, and still love, so very much. These are some of my favorite memories that I will always hold close to my heart.

Nurse Sees Uniqueness in Each Mesothelioma Patients

Nurses Make A Difference to Mesothelioma Patients

Nurses are an integral part to anyone’s recovery. During my father’s battle with mesothelioma, there were countless nurses on his medical team, cheering him on, taking care of him, and becoming his friends. They were each very special to me and my family, and we still appreciate all that they did to make my Dad feel like he mattered, and that he was being cared for by caring people.

When Dad had his pleurectomy at NYU Langone, there was a nurse’s aide named Doris. Dad enjoyed his time with her so much; I remember leaving the hospital when he was released back to the hotel and she wasn’t working at the time. We left a note on the white board in the room, thanking her and reiterating their inside joke once more, hoping that it would still be there when her next shift began.

Dad spent a fair amount of time in treatment facilities and hospitals, and he would always talk about the nurses as though they were his buddies. I know that they have an incredibly hard job that must wear them down at times. I just pray that my father was a bright light in their day, as they were in his.

On behalf of mesothelioma patients and their families, thank you for all you do. Your hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed.

Dad and Mesothelioma Ups and Downs

What Would Dad Think of the Mesothelioma Ups and Downs?

In the years that have passed since I lost my father to mesothelioma, I have often looked at events, not only in my life and immediate community, but also globally, and wondered, what would Dad think about this?  Sometimes, they are lighthearted happenings, others, more sober topics; Dad was interested in most things and I loved hearing his opinions and simple wisdom applied to anything and everything.

If Dad were to look at the advocacy that his family continues with the mesothelioma community, I think he would be proud. His smile beaming, eyes sparkling, as they did any time someone did something that he thought was admirable and good. He was an advocate with us before he lost his fight, and I know that he was excited to continue on with his work; now it continues through those who love him.

If my father saw the success that some friends are having with their mesothelioma treatments, he would be ecstatic, praising God and congratulating them on their progress. To see the other side, however, the number of those who have since passed, his heart would be broken and he would  be working to console their families.

Seeing the recent revelations about asbestos being used in children’s make up, I know that he would have been so sad. Dad loved children and the thought of a child being exposed to something so life-shattering would cause his heart great pain and sorrow. I’m sure that he would have had some strong feelings of how this should be handled.

I think about Dad every second of every day. Still, four years later, I find myself picking up the phone to call and tell him about something going on that I know would interest him. Even though he can’t pick up, I do take time to think about what his reaction would have been. This is a practice that keeps his memory alive in my heart, and I know that he smiles knowing that I’m still thinking about the wisdom he imparted on me and my family.

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