An (Ice-Free) Moment For Mesothelioma

Today we’re breaking from our regularly scheduled blogging to take a Moment For Mesothelioma.

I promise, you don’t even have to pour ice over yourself.

I mean, unless you want to.


Your city may not have a big Mesothelioma Survivors Walk every year, but that’s not because it’s uncommon. It’s because there aren’t many long-term survivors. But there is Heather Von St. James. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given a 15 month life expectancy – eight years ago. Now, Heather and her family are giving a face and a voice to the nearly 30,000 people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.Cam_Lil_HVSJ(1)

Normally this isn’t the kind of post suggestion we’d jump on, but after I thought about it for a minute (and deduced that the Von St. Jameses are real, human people and not spam robots), I realized that it was a disease I knew almost nothing about. So, maybe our readers don’t know much about it either. Some quick facts: mesothelioma is the result of exposure to asbestos. Are you sighing with relief because you never worked in construction or asbestos abatement? Not so fast. Any amount of asbestos exposure is unsafe, and even second-hand exposure puts you at increased risk for mesothelioma.

[Sidebar: I went to an elementary school that was somewhere between “dignified and historic” and straight-up rickety. I still remember when they closed a wing of the school to get asbestos out of the building. My friends and I made a ton of jokes about all of the “cancer dust” we were breathing in because they didn’t close the whole school. Because if fourth graders in the 90s loved anything, it was gallows humor. And Fruit By The Foot. And, for whatever reason, Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill album, because apparently we all just had a lot of feelings.

“We’re doing asbestos we can!” – Sacred Heart, c. 1996.

Anyway, turns out asbestos doesn’t give off cancer “dust.” It’s “airborne fibers,” and is when asbestos is the most dangerous. How about that day off, Sacred Heart?]

So, here’s what we’d like you to do:

  • Know if you’re at risk: have you had firsthand contact with asbestos due to occupational exposure? Or through its presence in an older building where you spent time, like a school or workplace? Or, were you exposed to asbestos fibers secondhand through someone you know who works with it?


  • Know if your loved ones are at risk: Mesothelioma symptoms can appear 30-60 years after exposure. And, one can be diagnosed with mesothelioma even with only a short-term exposure. So if your dad had a summer job working with asbestos in college, please fill him in. U.S.A military veterans are at the highest risk for mesothelioma, so maybe instead of “supporting our troops” with a sticker on your car, you can tell the vets in your life to be on alert. You can keep the sticker too, if you like.


  • Tell your doctor: Mesothelioma symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory diseases. So, if you have been exposed to asbestos, please let your doctor know.


  • Visit  if this post has you thinking that you or someone you know might be at risk of this disease.


  •  If you are the principal of Sacred Heart, and it’s 1996, and there’s asbestos fibers flying to and fro around the music room (and I guess you have some sort of time machine) why don’t you close school while you deal with that? My inner 9-year-old would like to stay home and watch Rikki Lake.

Okay, you can go back to throwing ice over yourselves now.


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