How Positivity and Perseverance Helped Me Overcome Mesothelioma
My name is Katherine Keys and I was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 49. Mesothelioma is a cancer that most often affects the tissue around the lungs and is associated with exposure to asbestos. Most people are given only months to live. I am still alive ten years after my diagnosis. This is my hopeful story.
It Started Like Any Other Illness
One of the major issues that makes mesothelioma such a tough type of cancer to beat is that it is often diagnosed in a late stage, when there is little hope of remission. The symptoms mimic those of much more common illnesses, which means most people don’t get an accurate diagnosis until the cancer is advanced.
I first started to feel something wasn’t right when I had flu-like symptoms. I had a cough, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing. I figured I either had the flu or another type of respiratory infection. When it got worse, I ended up in the emergency room. This is when I got the bad news: I had mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive, and fast-spreading cancer.
The good news for me was that I received my diagnosis while the cancer was still in stage one. It had not yet spread very far and had not metastasized. While other people might react to the diagnosis—and to my doctor’s prognosis that I had two years or less to live—with hopelessness, I rejoiced that the cancer was in an early stage. I decided to fight it with a positive attitude, as well as aggressive treatment.
Fighting Back with Positivity
I was not prepared to give up, despite the poor prognosis I received. Most people cannot expect to survive mesothelioma, but I was relentlessly positive. I loved my family and my life, and I was not ready to give it up yet. I got the support I needed and asked for the best, most comprehensive and aggressive treatment possible—the treatment that would give me the best possible chance of beating the cancer.
My only chance was to undergo a radical type of surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This surgery aims to beat mesothelioma by removing a lot of tissue: one lung, part of the diaphragm, and all of the pleura on one side of the chest, as well as lymph nodes. This kind of surgery gives a small chance of remission, but it is also a risky and dangerous procedure that could be fatal.
My gamble paid off, and with the surgery and subsequent radiation therapy, I achieved remission. Ten years later, through monthly checkups, six-month checkups, and yearly checkups, my doctors cannot find any trace of the cancer. I attribute this to my skilled doctors, but also to my positive attitude and absolute refusal to succumb to the cancer.
The Struggle Wasn’t Over
Although I beat mesothelioma, I still needed my positive attitude. Having a surgery to remove one whole lung is no walk in the park. It took months to recover, and even then, I was left with serious physical limitations. I can’t be as active as I used to be, and I need to rely on people more than ever before. I also have to face the fact that my cancer could return at any time.
In spite of all these major challenges that I still live with, I am just glad to be alive. I find more joy in life than ever before and relish every minute I get to spend with my beloved family and friends. I fought and won over mesothelioma because I had drastic surgery, but I know that treatment would never have been enough. I never would have gotten through all of this if I hadn’t faced it with relentless positivity and love for life. Now, I love to inspire others with my story. I enjoy telling people about what I have been through because I know it helps others find the strength to face their own challenges head on, with a smile.
For more information on legal representation for asbestos- and mesothelioma-related lawsuits, check out www.mesotheliomalawyercenter.org.