Mesothelioma is a devastating and aggressive form of cancer. It is most often caused by exposure to asbestos, a harmful natural mineral that was used for decades in a variety of applications. Getting a diagnosis of this type of cancer can feel like your world is ending; the prognosis is rarely good. There are hopeful stories, though, like that of Katherine Keys who was diagnosed with mesothelioma ten years ago and today is thriving and telling her story to give others hope.
Her story began when Katherine was 49 years old. She started to feel some persistent symptoms, like difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, a frequent cough, and chest pains. She thought she must have some type of respiratory infection, like the flu. But the symptoms just wouldn’t go away, and eventually she went to the emergency room where she ultimately got the diagnosis of stage I mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the mesothelium, the tissue lining the inside of the body and most organs. Katherine was diagnosed with the most common form of the disease, which affects the pleura, the part of the mesothelium that surrounds the lungs in the chest cavity. This is why her symptoms resembled those of an upper respiratory infection.
Katherine was luckier than most people with mesothelioma in that she got her diagnosis in stage I of the disease. Because the symptoms are so similar to more common illnesses, and because the cancer has a long latency period, many people never get an accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma until it is already advanced to a later stage. This makes it much more difficult to treat. Katherine, at stage I, still did not get a good prognosis from her doctors, but her early staging gave her hope that she could fight the cancer and possibly win.
Ready for a Fight
Determined to give the fight her all, Katherine realized she needed an ally and turned to MesotheliomaLaywerCenter.org. Here, victims of asbestos exposure and those who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis can find the support and guidance needed to fight back. The site provides resources to help inform patients about everything related to mesothelioma. It also provides access to medical experts who can provide the best treatment and legal experts who can provide services to help patients fight for compensation through settlements and asbestos trust funds.
With guidance from MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org and access to medical teams that could provide her with the most advanced treatments, Katherine chose to go with the most aggressive attack against her cancer. She chose to undergo a very radical type of surgery that is risky and only performed by experienced surgeons. Called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, this surgery involves opening the chest cavity and removing one entire lung, all of the pleura surrounding that lung, part of the diaphragm, and even some of the lymph nodes. This extensive surgery is the best chance a mesothelioma patient has of achieving remission and Katherine was prepared to take the risks and hope for the best outcome.
After the surgery, Katherine had to face life with just one lung, but her treatment wasn’t over yet. To reduce the risk of the cancer recurring, she received radiation therapy five times a week for several months. Although she had also been scheduled to receive chemotherapy, the success of surgery and radiation mean she could avoid that treatment.
Recovery and Remission
Recovery from this aggressive line of treatment took Katherine months, and even after a year she still had limitations. In fact, she will always live with some physical limitations because she has only one lung. After her treatment Katherine’s doctors could not find any signs of cancer, but there was still a possibility of recurrence. Every month for several months she had to undergo blood tests, X-rays, PET scans, and other tests to confirm that the cancer had not come back.
Those check-ups were eventually reduced to every two months, three months, six months, and then once a year. The cancer never came back. After one year Katherine was thrilled to be cancer-free. Ten years later, she celebrates life like never before because she is still cancer-free.
Katherine beat mesothelioma, not something that many people can say. She credits her survival to her own hope and optimism, her amazing medical team, the love and support of her family, and the resources she received from MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org. Now, as a mesothelioma survivor, Katherine relishes having time with her family, but she also loves telling her story and bringing hope to other people who are going through the same struggle.