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Old 07-17-2005, 05:27 PM   #1
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Red face Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

I hope I am posting this on the right board. I wanted advice from people who know the facts about asbestos.

2 years ago, my husband and I bought a house built in 1972 and immediately began remodeling it. The house had popcorn ceilings, which we disturbed at random times by taking things down and putting things up.

THEN, about 6 months before we moved out, we decided to scrape off the ceiling in the dining room (about 6' x 6'). We knew NOTHING about asbestos, and it never would have even occurred to us that doing this would be dangerous. We didn't wear masks or anything- dust was everywhere. We had the mess "cleaned up" (or so we thought) in 2 days, and it was then that my grandma warned us that the ceiling could have contained asbestos.

We were terrified, and I cried and worried for days. We decided to send in a sample to a confidential testing company, and it came back saying that the ceiling contained 3% asbestos.

This did worry me, but after a while I forgot about it. We stayed with my parents while special cleaners came in and cleaned up, then we sold the house and got rid of everything that could still be contaminated.

It's been a year, and I've managed to stop thinking about it, since I figure my risk with such short exposure is small. BUT THEN, I found out that my mom's house, which was built in the early 70's and also has acoustical ceilings, was probably exposing me for a good portion of my early years up until age 16. (I am now 27 years old).

It turns out that the previous homeowners had cut into the ceiling in order to install a whole house fan. So that fan was probably blowing steady amounts of asbestos all throughout the house the whole time I lived there!!!

I will discuss this with my doctor, but in the meantime, I am so scared I can hardly see straight! Do you think 16 years of possible exposure combined with a couple of days of high exposure will cause me problems in the future?

Thank you so much for reading all this. I would appreciate any advice, even if it's scary. (But some reassurance would be wonderful too!)

 
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Old 07-17-2005, 10:20 PM   #2
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

There's of course no way to predict whether or not you will develop health problems from your exposure. There are people who worked with asbestos everyday for decades who never developed a problem and then there are people like me who were exposed minimially and end up with mesothelioma.

One thing that is known for sure is that if you are exposed and are a smoker you stand a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma. So if you smoke, quit. It's the best thing you can do to protect yourself even after all these years of suspected exposure.

The best thing you can do is discuss your concerns with your physician and see what he or she recommends. You might want to have yearly chest X-rays or better yet CT Scans. The biggest problem with mesothelioma is that it's usually not caught until it's too late. Regular chest films will help catch anything that might turn up, IF it ever turns up.

Do you have any symptoms currently? Anyone else in your family who lived in the same house?

Try to calm yourself. This is not something that should have you this frightened. From what you've written there seems to be no indication that you are experiencing any health problems currently and chances are you won't in the future either.

Mesothlioma is still a very rare cancer despite the number of people exposed to asbestos over the years and it takes many years for it to manifest itself.

I wouldn't sit around worrying that you're going to get it. Take it from someone who has it, don't waste your time. Enjoy your life, pay attention to your health, if you develop any sort of chest/breathing symptoms get them thouroughly checked out and if you smoke, quit. Too many people fear getting something and spend too much time scaring themselves. That sort of stress does nothing for your immune system.

I hope that I've helped to put your mind at ease. If you're doing research online regarding this topic bare in mind that most meso web sites are put together by law firms who paint the bleakest picture. They can scare the HELL out of you and most of what's out there is pretty scary but I'm living proof that it's not ALL bad and I know a lot of other meso patients who are managing to live with the disease.

Take care and if you have any questions I'd be more then happy to try and answer them.

Sincerely,
Antoinette

 
Old 07-18-2005, 04:19 AM   #3
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

Thank you so much Antoinette, for your reassuring and very wise response. You are right, worrying as much as I am won't help or change anything- except maybe for the worst, since I have even been having trouble eating and sleeping!

I do have other family members who lived/still live in my mom's house. My mom has lived there for 26 years, and my sister stays there often. My mom had a recent bout of viral pnemonia but chest x rays came out normal.

As for me, I have been extra panicky because I have had two episodes of shortness of breath in the past couple of months, and I often have episodes of chest tightness and not being able to take deep breaths. I do not smoke.

I had a whole body scan in 2003 and everything came out fine, as well as a recent chest x ray after my first episode of shortness of breath. That came out fine as well.

Overall I actually am very healthy- I am a vegetarian, I eat organic produce, avoid processed foods, drink lots of tea, and exercise regularly. I think that's why this disease scares me so much; because no matter what I do for myself healthwise, I could still end up with it.

It is so kind of you to put my mind at ease. I am very sorry to hear that you are going through this. Do you mind me asking how much exposure you had and for how long?

Thank you

 
Old 07-18-2005, 08:27 AM   #4
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

I'm SO glad that my words helped to ease your mind a bit.

I totally understand being panicky about health issues for myself and for my family. It's natural to be concerned but when you start losing sleep and not eating over it then you need to get a different perspective.

My exposure was through my high school in NY. We had asbestos acoustical tiles in the ceilings and they were crumbling despite it being a brand new school. So I was only exposed to it for 3 years. I don't know how many other kids in my class may have developed problems from it as we're just gettng old enough to see anything. I am only 43 so it's a bit early for me. I did smoke for a number of years and always feared developing lung cancer but not this.

It's great that you take such good care of yourself and eat so well. I was a vegetarian for 14 years. While taking care of yourself is no guarantee that you won't get sick you certainly are WAY ahead of the game compared to most people.

Your shortness of breath and chest pains are likely being caused by anxiety since your films came back clean. Just keep on top of it but don't be preoccupied with it. It really is a rather rare cancer.

Since your family still lives in the house have they removed the asbestos that's there?

No matter what may happen or not happen in the future I can tell you from first hand experience that if you approach it with a positive attitude and not allow fear to take over the better off you will be.

I was terrified while going thorugh the testing process to find out what was wrong and prayed everyday that this was not happening. When I finally got the bad news I had worked myself into a real frenzy but it was the anticipatory anxiety that made me crazy. Not that I wanted cancer but once the other shoe fell I was able to move forward and start doing something about it and the best thing that I do for myself everyday is NOT allow fear into my thought process. It is the most useless emotion when it comes to this sort of thing.

Take care of youself and focus on the positive. It sounds like you're doing all the right things and that's all any of us can do. The rest is out of our hands and if we live our lives worrying about what MIGHT happen then that's not really living.

Sincerely,
Antoinette

 
Old 07-18-2005, 03:52 PM   #5
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

Well I am feeling somewhat better today. My mom talked to the contractor that works at her school (she's a principal) and asked him about possible asbestos exposure from her house. She told him that my dad (apparently it was my dad, not the previous homeowner) had cut through the ceiling texture, but then he installed the fan in such a way that it sealed off all the borders so fibers could not be released. So the contractor said this probably would not be considered a health hazard. (Do you agree...?) The contractor also said that he had worked with asbestos since high school, sanding and cutting shingles, and he is now in his mid-60's and has not had a problem yet.

I feel very relieved, because now I just have my couple days of heavy exposure to worry about. That must lower my risk substantially, right? Nevertheless, I am going to see my doctor in 30 minutes, and hopefully he can qualm my fears even more.

I am so sorry to hear about how you were exposed. That is just really terrible. You're right, 3 years of high school with crumbling asbestos doesn't even seem like that much. It seems so unfair that this happened to you. I wish I had something better to say- you've been so helpful to me.

Thanks again.

 
Old 07-19-2005, 06:01 AM   #6
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

How did it go at the doc's? Was he able to reassure you? I hope that you are feeling better about all of this.

With the knowledge that the ceiling fan was properly installed and your only real exposure being those couple of days I would put this out of my head. If by chance you were to develop something from that short 2 day exposure you would not see anything for 20-40 years. This is a very long time to worry about anything.

There are many more people who worked with asbestos daily for long periods of time who never develop a problem then there are mesothelioma patients.

While it is rather unfortunate that I did develop the disease I consider myself very blessed that it isn't behaving anything like it should. I happen to have the most aggresive form of the cancer too and have received no treatement so far. I was officially diagnosed in Dec. of '04 but have been symptomatic since Aug. '04 and had pleural effusions going back 10 years. By all rights I shouldn't be here but by the grace of God I am, so I try to do what I can to help others with this disease. If nothing else giving them hope that you can survive it.

Take care,
Antoinette

 
Old 07-20-2005, 06:35 AM   #7
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

The doctor wasn't very reassuring, no. And he diagnosed me with asthma, (I've had on and off chest tightness and trouble deep breathing since 2001). I'm not sure if it is anxiety induced asthma or something else, but nevertheless, I am on top of it!

I bought a book my dad recommended called "Prescription for Nutritional Living" and it has just about any ailment you can think of, as well as nutritional / herbal supplements that actually treat the problem, rather than medication that will just cover the symptoms.

I found out that I already take several that help to reduce inflammation caused by asthma such as flax oil, fish oil, and B complex, and I got a few other recommended ones, such as Quertecin and an antioxidant blend of various amino acids and grape seed extract.

I am still struggling with trying to put this behind me. It is difficult. But I do know that I have never felt worse than I have this past week doing all this worrying, so I know I need to stop.

I am hoping that mesothelioma development has more to do with genetics than anything else- both my grandparents smoked for about 60 years and are still going strong at 80 with no sickness yet!

I am so glad you are doing well. I hope that you continue to amaze the doctors with how you are doing. I really appreciate all the advice and support you have given me. It means so much.

 
Old 07-20-2005, 09:49 AM   #8
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

I'm sorry that the doc wasn't able to put your mind more at ease and I'm sorry that he diagnosed you with asthma. My husband suffers from exercise induced asthma and most of his brothers do too.

Prescription for Nutritional Living is a wonderful book and I've used it on and off over the years. You can't really go wrong with their recommendations.

I'm sorry that you are having so much trouble putting this behind you but the odds of you EVER developing this disease are SO remote. Even if you do, spending the next 20-30 years fretting about it is such a waste. Don't live for the "what ifs", live for the "what ares".

Let's say, worse case scenario you get mesothelioma in 30 years from you recent exposure. Chances are they will have made great advances in treating meso by then. So while it's a dire diagnosis for most these days it could be a very manageable disease in 2-3 decades. Who knows, there may even be a cure.

I encourage you to think of the positive things in your life and forget about this asbestos stuff. Keep in mind that terrible things happen everyday in life to people and we can't control when and how it happens. All we can do is be grateful for the blessings we have. Creating more trauma for ourselves by imagining things that MIGHT happen is very detrimental and can sometimes turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

Take care of yourself and be happy. You are TOO young to be worrying about all of this. I wish I could go back to being 27 again, there's so much I would do differently and two of those things would be to enjoy my life more and stop worrying about so much.

Sincerely,
Antoinette

 
Old 07-20-2005, 10:05 AM   #9
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

You know, you're right. I actually was just thinking that to myself earlier- here I am panicking about this potential carcinogen sitting in my lungs because it could cause me cancer 20 years down the road...and yet I could die in a car accident tomorrow!

I am being silly. And I must sound terrible to you. I know I need to get over this. The terrible thing is, by nature I am a total worrier and hypochondriac. Like, if I have a strange headache or something, my first thought is that it must be a brain tumor. When this all first happened and we told our family about it, everyone said, "Wow, you are the worst person for this to happen to," because they knew how I would react. It's a terrible way to think- very destructive. I need to try and be more like you- or my husband, who has been through the exact same thing as me and yet never even gives it a thought.

You sound so wise and brave- how do you do it? I was going to ask you earlier, you decided against traditional treatment, but did you try any alternative treatments? Obviously if you've been reading The Presciption for Nutritional Living, you must have. I prescribe to Alternative Medicine, and it seems like there are many alternative treatment centers available. I'm sure you must know all of this already though.

Thank you, by the way, for including your symptoms and experiences leading up to your diagnosis. I had wanted to ask, but I didn't want to make you feel like some kind of science experiment I was trying to glean information from. Another thing I'm wondering is, aren't you curious to know how many other people who attended or worked at your school got sick? I would be.

I wish you all the luck, Antoinette. I have really enjoyed talking with you.

 
Old 07-20-2005, 12:16 PM   #10
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

It's good to know that you realize that it's silly to think this way. I don't think you're terrible at all I just feel for you and don't want you to torture yourself needlessly.

I come from a long line of worriers and hypochondriacs so I can totally relate. My grandmother was the queen of worriers. If you were 5 minutes late she was convinced that you met with a horrifying death. She couldn't get her mind to think of the more obvious and less catastrophic reasons. She was like that until she died at the age of 96. She did not have a happy life. Can you imagine living that long and being miserable? Sigh, such a waste.

People tell me I'm brave all the time but I'm not really. What I am is lucky to have a cancer that doesn't cause me too much trouble. I live with it. I've had migraines that hurt more at times. Conventional treatments are pretty hit or miss when it comes to meso and since I'm not feeling that poorly my doctors are reluctant to push anything that's going to make me feel worse. I can always do chemo but have personally made the decision not to. I will start radiation therapy in a few weeks to help manage the pain I do have and to hopefully shrink the tumor. Surgery was a consideration but there was fear that it might cause the cancer to spread by disturbing it.

I have used alternative therpaies in the past. I see an acupuncturist on a fairly regular basis as well as getting chiropractic adjustments. My diet is not as pure as it was 10 years ago but I stay away from processed foods and eat organic whenever possible. I workout with a personal trainer 3 days a week to keep myself strong and to prevent anymore weight gain from the steroids I take (I'm weaning off of them now).

I've looked into all the various alternative cancer centers that are available and have chosen not to go that route either. While they are always an option what makes me feel best right now is to live my life the way I want to as if I didn't have cancer. What upsets me the most is when the disease dictates what I can or can't do. So I don't let it. While in the future I may consider going off to one of these alternative clinics to get some help for right now I'm doing fine on my own.

I don't mind being a science experiment. If I can help just one person by having this disease then it won't be for nothing. Feel free to ask whatever you like.

I am curious about other classmates but so far have not heard of any others who have developed meso, but it's still pretty early. I no longer live in NY where I attended school and do not keep in touch with any of my former classmates so it's possible that there are others but I have no way of finding out who they are.

I've enjoyed talking with you too and if you find yourself not being able to cope or need to be reassured again don't hesitate to track me down on this board. Take care.

Sincerely,
Antoinette

 
Old 07-31-2005, 09:19 AM   #11
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

I have been hoping this board would get a little more active so I could find out more on this subject myself.

My story:

My FIL was dx'ed around Aug. 2004, but had had some sx's for 8 months or so, but with the health care systems in the UK where he live is so horribly slow it's outrageous.

Ironically, his sister had died of the disease about 2 yrs. earlier! It is belived he got his exposure at least 30-40 years ago, working as an engineer in Asia, working in buildings. It is also believed his sister was exposed when she was younger by simply washing her husband's clothing, when he worked in a similar job. He did not get the disease himself, strangely enough.

So far, he has done fairly well. He had a course of radiation a few months ago (his Dr. did not recommend chemo, due to his age, 80). They said they felt it would make him more comfortable for the time he had. It also appears to be in only 1 lung.

He has only said so far, he is very tired, sleeps more, with more naps. He says he is not in any real pain at all, and is slowly losing weight at a regular pace. He had 100 oz. of fluid withdrawn a few days ago, due to some breathlessness.

He is the most kind and amazing man I've ever known, and has a wonderful outlook, and is content, realizing that he has lead a full and happy life. I just hope he is able to skip the pain that is possible in the later stages. He is also a religious man, who was a missonary many years, and this has given him a lot of emotional comfort.

With us living in the states, we won't be able to see him again, most likely while he is alive, and that is painful for us. We did see him last year, and it was a wonderful visit.

Well, I guess I just wanted to talk about this to someone who who understands this disease, since no one around us has any experience with it.

Good luck to everyone.

 
Old 08-01-2005, 11:08 PM   #12
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

Since I feel I've received an extensive amount of exposure, I'll keep my issue in this thread.

This past year, i've been working with several of my friends on developing a website that explores conditions in Detroit, Michigan's abandoned buildings. Typcially we wear masks when we go in and take photos. The owners of the buildings have us sign liability forms denying them any responsibliity for exposure to any hazardous materials, one being asbestos. This past week I visited a building that I thought had abatements done on it, so I wore no mask. Most of it was a concrete shell until I got up to the upper floors and found myself standing in the middle of a room full of asbestos. Additionally, I entered an attic with paperlike insulation that was breaking apart covering everything in a grayish dust that I had gotten on my clothes. Basically, it was a disastrous situation that I had put myself in, which was a stupid thing to do. I'm getting tested for problems hopefully a month from now. I know it's probably too early to tell, but if detected early can serious consequences be avoided in the future?

Last edited by moderator2; 08-02-2005 at 05:17 AM. Reason: please do not post photos or personal websites

 
Old 08-02-2005, 01:22 AM   #13
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

Ian84,

Looks like something out of the movie Session 9.

Seriously though. Since you normally take percautions and this appears to be your one major exposure the chances of developing mesothelioma 20 -40 years down the line are remote.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting the most important thing you can do is NOT smoke. Smoking causes the asbestos fibers that have been inhaled to embed deeper into the your lung tissue. Smokers are 70% more likely to develop mesothelioma.

Making your physicians aware of your exposure, especially if you develop any sort of respiratory or even gastro-intestinal problems (peritoneal mesothelioma while even more rare can happen from ingestion of fibers or spread of pleaural meso) will hopefully insure that suspicious or unexplained conditions won't be just brushed off as nothing or something benign.

In my case we never made the connection between asbestos exposure from my high school and the adenocarnicoma I was originally diagnosed with 10 years ago. There was no indication that I had meso back then since my needle biopsy came back clean. Often meso is misdiagnosed because few doctors have much experience with it, there's no one test to identify it in it's early stages, and it's very rare so unless someone has had obvious asbetos exposure it's usually not considered.

As I said before I would not sit and worry that you will develop this disease decades from now. Just keep yourself healthy, stay on top of symptoms, discuss with your physican if any regular monitoring should be done, DON'T SMOKE, and avoid any further exposure.

Good luck and good health to you.

Antoinette

 
Old 08-02-2005, 01:41 AM   #14
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

DGO1223,

I'm very sorry that your f-i-l has to deal with this disease and that he lost his sister to it as well.

It's fotunate that he is not experiencing any pain at this point. Some people suffer quite a bit from it and some don't. It depends on how the disease presents itself. I for the most part have had very manageable pain until recently. While my disease is stable the pain levels have increased which is likely a sign of inflammation and scar tissue formation. Pain is not a good indicator of disease progression.

Just know that even if he does develop worsening pain there is no need for him to suffer. There are great medications out there to help cancer patients manage even end stage pain.

I know that in the UK healthcare is a whole different ball game. I am amazed and horrified at the stories I've read on this board regarding the time it takes to get testing or treatment. It's good that he has received radiation treatment to help with his condition so far. Chemo has had limited success with this disease though Alimta has shown itself to be helpful to some. Unfortunately there is no cure and the side effects from treatment can be so debilitating that they are often not worth the time that it buys.

I made a decision early on to not do chemo because of my overall good health. I just couldn't see making myself sick for 6-8 months in order to buy myself 6 months and neither could my doctors.

I pray that your f-i-l will continue to be pain free and that the palliative measures his physicians will utilize will make him as comfortable as possible for as long as possilbe.

Don't pay any attention to the statistics. They mean nothing. I should have been dead a VERY long time ago and I'm still here, without any treatment. Since your f-i-l is a religious man I'm sure he is putting his trust in God to see him through this and miracles do happen. I'm living proof of it.

If you have any questions at all don't hesitate to ask. If I can help just one person by having this cancer then it won't be for nothing.

Take care and God bless.

Antoinette

"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you." (MT. 17-20)

 
Old 08-02-2005, 02:54 PM   #15
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Re: Extensive asbestos exposure, HELP!

Thanks so much for your reply Antoinette. I probably will be asking more questions now that I've found someone who can answer some of them.

The Dr. also told him he could do a procedure inserting a substance into his lung that acted like a kind of glue, to keep the fluid from forming so much. Are you familiar with this, and if it helps or makes it worse as far as pain goes?

 
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