Essay by Vasiliki Kampas
Cancer has been an insatiable beast claiming lives, and radically changing many lives since the dawn of humankind. Cancer seems to be an inevitable part of life, but does it always have to have so many victims? Many lives have been robbed by cancer and many more have been severely affected and dramatically changed. Some types of cancer develop in old age, and are considered inevitable by many doctors and physicians. However, there are many forms of cancers claiming innocent lives too early, one of which is Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that, covers the majority of your internal organs (Mesothelioma, Mayo Clinic). Mesothelioma has claimed many lives, including my grandfather’s.
I never got to meet my paternal grandfather, because Mesothelioma claimed his life many years before I was even born. My grandfather was working with asbestos and back then in the 1960’s-1970’s in Greece they did not know the effects of asbestos on one’s health. After working for years with asbestos, he was diagnosed with pleural cancer which is now referred to as pleural Mesothelioma. My paternal grandparents were very poor and they could not afford treatment, so my grandfather passed away, while being in excruciating pain. My father was 12 years old when his father past away, and because he was the oldest child in the family, he had to drop out of school to help provide for the family and help pay the family’s bills. He never got to finish elementary school, because he had to drop out right before he had the chance to graduate.
The death of my grandfather dramatically changed, and shaped my father’s life and this experience subsequently shaped his children’s lives; my life. My father always likes to tell stories about his father, who passed away too soon from Mesothelioma, and he always makes me wish I had the chance to meet my grandfather. Because my father never got to finish elementary school he made sure, that his children would get the best possible education and therefore he worked two jobs, trying to make ends meet. He loved school and his yearning to go back to school, influenced us deeply making me and my siblings try to strive for the best. My father always wanted to be a doctor, and help save lives, but he never achieved that dream. He did however start working at a hospital as a stoker and handyman, and donated many hours volunteering and spending countless hours with cancer patients and sometimes, he would take us with him. My father says that losing his father so early of cancer, made him realize how precious life is and that we can never take anything for granted. He also taught us that no matter how hard life may get, if you have a strong sense of belief in yourself, you will persevere. Growing up, when we would feel blue about silly things, my father would tell us all the things he went through when he lost his father and that helped put things into perspective.
The hours that we donated with my father to help cancer patients, had a profound impact on my career choice, as I want to become a Social Worker and help children who are battling cancer and other illnesses and diseases. Making a difference in a child’s life who’s battling cancer is very important to me. One of my aspirations is to work with for the Child Protective Services and make sure all children are in loving and caring homes. I would also love to work for the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, and volunteer there as a social worker and help children and their families battling cancer and all diseases, that no child should be battling. Being there to help children and their families during one of their hardest times in life is what I really want to do.
Cancer is racking up victims, and more often than not we can avoid this by taking appropriate measures, and most importantly by raising awareness. According to the National Cancer Center “In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease (National Cancer Center)”. Approximately 3000 cancer cases will be mesothelioma related cases. Every year more than 3000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a silent killer, and bringing awareness to this matter may help save thousands of lives. By making people aware of Mesothelioma and the dangers lurking in asbestos, we could potentially help save thousands of innocent lives.
Mesothelioma caused by asbestos, has taken away too many loved ones. It is high time we prevented to untimely deaths by raising awareness. It is of extreme importance to raise awareness within families, because if one family member is coming in contact with asbestos, then the entire family could get severely impacted by the asbestos particles that may find their way into the home. Another reason for raising awareness is to get people to have their houses checked for asbestos, especially if the houses were build prior to 1990, since asbestos was used in home construction. You can never bee too safe when it comes to asbestos.
One thing mesothelioma and cancer taught my dad, is that it may steal your loved ones away from you but it can never rob the memories you have made with them. And no matter how hard life gets, no matter how many hardships you go through, we are blessed to have a today. I had to learn the same lesson my father learned, when cancer stole away my maternal grandfather, who was like a second father to me. I was there to witness every moment of the devastating effects cancer had on my grandfather. He died within only two months after this diagnosis of urinary bladder cancer; it was a rapid form of cancer that sucked the light out of him. Within two months he was a shell of his former self, and it was hard on everyone in the family, especially my father who lost a second father from cancer 40 years later. I hated cancer for what it did to my grandfather, but then I realized that I have all these precious memories with him, and that’s how I choose to remember him; not on his deathbed, but as he was when he was enjoying life. To people who are battling cancer I would say “ You are extremely brave, you can do this, and you are loved.” To a family who has lost a loved one to this disease I would tell them to cherish their memories and hold on to the good ones. You may feel like you’ll always feel this way, but you won’t. I was devastated by my grandfather’s death, but I kept on living for him, because that’s what he would have wanted. “Keep going through life, as you normally do, and then one day, it won’t hurt as much. One day, things will be slightly brighter. Life is a worth living, and your loved one will have wanted you to remember them and keep on living. Keep making them proud. That’s what I try to do.
- “Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
- “Mesothelioma.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
My name is Vasiliki Kampas, and I am an aspiring social worker. I want to earn my B.A. in social work and then earn a M.A. and Ph.D. My dream is to work with Child Protective Services and make sure children feel safe and cared for. I love children and want to make a difference in their lives. The message I would like to give families fighting with mesothelioma is “You are brave, you are strong, you are loved!”