“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.” –Terri Clark
Author: Brianne Hoglin
It’s nearly impossible to forget the moments in life when you receive news that forever places a mark on your personal story. When I was a freshman in college, hundreds of miles away from my family and home I was studying one evening when I got a phone call from my mom, who offered me the heart-wrenching news that my grandfather had finally lost his second battle with lung cancer and passed away moments earlier. That week had been especially hard on him, concluding a difficult summer where a second fight with lung cancer proved much more furious than the first. As his family it was a painful season of life for us as well to watch the exponential increase in the cruelty of his symptoms, the decline in quality of living, and the steady damage to his will to continue fighting. At reception of the news I remember feebly falling to the ground in the hallway and just crying uncontrollably, with no relief or comfort coming from the teachers and peers that tried to console me. At that moment I remember feeling like the room was spinning and at the root of it all I just felt so helpless.
That feeling of helplessness is often a huge weight that hangs on the patients dealing with any type of cancer as well as their families. Mesothelioma is one such cancer that affects thousands of individuals every year, and which has seen an increase in diagnosed cases within the span of recent years . With the only known cause of mesothelioma being exposure to asbestos, there is an additional burden placed on the sufferers of this disease and their families with the consideration of the neglect for prevention, and the absence of sufficient information provided to them regarding the risk presented by asbestos exposure. Many workers in the United States in laborer occupations such as emergency responders, industrial manufacturers and builders, and factory workers have had unreasonably high exposure rates to asbestos and in response have unfortunately seen high incidence of mesothelioma symptoms and diagnoses . While now there is much more information available and more precautions taken, by the nature of the development of the disease, most of the affected individuals most likely suffered exposure 10-40 years ago . And even though there are treatment options available, the reality of mesothelioma presents a discouraging prognosis, especially depending on the stage of cancer which the patient is facing when the initial diagnosis is made.
Since I have seen firsthand the effects and stress put onto a family by the cruel outcome of watching a loved one endure the symptoms, both physical and psychological, caused by the terrible diagnosis of a lung specific cancer I am rigorously inspired to make a difference in in the lives of those fighting this overwhelming battle. As a result, the desire to help alleviate as much as that feeling of complete helplessness as possible is a constant driving factor which inspires me every day to continue to pursue a future career in medicine. My own personal experience along with the testimonies of people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers lights an indestructible fire within me. I passionately anticipate the opportunity to someday have the skill and facility to provide some relief to families and patients impacted by a threatening diagnosis. I hope to do this by making adequate information and appropriate treatments available to them. This passion further drives me to tackle the high challenge of medical school and the work required to become a competent medical doctor. When it comes down to the foundation of things, simply put, I want to offer the best care possible to the individuals, focusing on the patient and the opportunity for a beneficial relationship rather than only the disease.
However, treatment and support for patients and their families is only part of the battle when it comes to this disease. While mesothelioma has limited treatments available, there is boundless occasion for prevention. As a community of citizens we should consider it a priority to not only educate people of the dangers and risks their occupation may afford, but to also make it accessible and required for adequate preventative measures to be taken. While huge strides have been made to make asbestos exposure much less likely, there is still high risk to be payed attention to. Simply by spreading awareness and taking responsibility onto ourselves, we have the potential to make a huge impact. Especially with the network that current social media provides, playing our individual roles is literally at our fingertips.
An online community can not only help spread awareness and aid prevention efforts, but it can also be a valuable resource to those suffering from the effects of mesothelioma and other cancers. With online support groups and advice, there is a nearly unlimited possibility for patients and their families to avoid completely the feeling of aloneness. I would encourage anyone faced with cancer to not be ashamed or timid in seeking out support, but rather to take advantage of every resource offered to them. And along with receiving support, sharing personal stories and experiences could benefit a whole other community of people. After all, as people we need community and are much stronger together.
I would hope that everyone, regardless of their own personal experience with mesothelioma or any cancer, would take it upon themselves to help build a community of support and awareness to combat the devastating nature of the disease and help make a lasting difference in the lives of the thousands affected. This should be done both in honor of those who have fought, or are fighting mesothelioma, as well as in celebration of the lives that can be changed for the better by preventing the disease from ever surfacing. Because cancer is something that not only affects the person diagnosed, but like Terri Clark said in her quote regarding her mother’s battle with cancer, it spreads to affect everyone involved.
 “Mesothelioma Cancer: Prevalence, Occurrence, Causes and Legal View.” Carcinomasymptoms.com. 2003-2015. Web. 2 Sept. 2015.
 “Mesothelioma Prognosis & Survival Rate Information.” MesotheliomaHelp.org. Belluck & Fox, LLP, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 2 Sept. 2015.
 Clark, Terri. Lifehack Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2015.
I am a premed student pursuing a major in Molecular Biology as well as a minor in Chemistry at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. Outside of academics I am a part of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Track and Cross Country programs here at Lipscomb and a mentor for the IDEAL Program for students with disabilities. Since my start of participation in the essay competition I have talked with some people about the facts I have learned, and shared my thoughts on what we should do to raise awareness as a community. My participation in this experience has also raised thoughts to me about how my career as a doctor can be used to help raise awareness, possibly by me becoming a specialist in oncology.