Passed Away November 2003
Janet, my wife of 26 years, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in early January 2001. After what seemed like a routine check for flu like symptoms, the doctor drained her lungs and asked, "When were you exposed to asbestos?" That is when we first heard the "M" word, let alone spell mesothelioma. After much digging around we made a link to her dad working at a refinery in Montreal in her early years (1950's). Later he developed asbestosis which too was a factor in his death in 2003 at 84.
We did our internet searches to get as much information as possible. We made contact with several other meso patients living in the Prince George area, where we were living at the time, and developed a small network of support. However, Janet outlived them all. We connected with a law firm in the USA which got us involved in one of those class action suits.
Then the chemo started, round one and two and three. Slowly things went downhill. As our children were out of home, I decided it was not fair to her to be at home alone suffering with this. So, I quit my principalship in a private school (I tried several avenues to get time off with no penalty), taking my chances on the class action suits. I must say that the health people in Prince George were wonderful. The doctors were always there for us; they even made home visits. We had a lot of support through home visitation programs. Our church, Lakewood Alliance, was there all the way for us with support in meals, cars when we went to Vancouver, prayer, visitation and encouragement. We felt blessed.
We were offered radical surgery in New York, a local business man in the forestry sector (whose father had been thru this) and a friend offering to help with that. My wife just wanted to be left alone, enjoy the company of family and friends and hope for the best. She was a living testimony to many - she made speaking engagements when she could. She was truly an inspiration and such a positive witness to others. As many will tell you, she was a stoic person with a "Get on with Life" attitude and no fear of death, with a solid faith. I think the rest of us were the ones who were quietly suffering as we struggled with what we were seeing.
Janet and I made several trips together: a visit to a daughter in Australia, a drive across Canada, and a visit to a fishing lodge North of Yellowknife, using the funds we received from class action suits. After her father was interred in Montreal (she missed the funeral because of chemo, but we videoed it for her), she came home and passed away in November 2003, just shy of her 50th birthday. Six months later we had a celebration of her life back in Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery. All three siblings and three direct family have been tested and show no signs of meso. However, we do follow what is happening world wide, as even here, in the mines of Northern Canada, we personally witnessed abusive use of asbestos products. Like all of life, we move on and hope we have all learned from the past.