Remembering the Victims, Recognizing Survivors

Whether we are talking about Big Tobacco, the Vietnam War, Hurricane Katrina, or the hundreds of thousands of asbestos induced deaths in the United States alone, it is so important to remember the victims and recognize the survivors. On the evening of March 2nd, I attended the awards dinner presented by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation at their annual Mesothelioma Symposium at the National Institute of Health (“NIH”) in Bethesda Maryland. It made me happy to see MARF recognize the survivors of mesothelioma: Those individuals who were presently defying the odds, and are alive a few years after their diagnosis, out running their doctors’ prognoses. This should give hope to anyone unlucky enough to receive a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.

The suffering of asbestos victims is also a horrible travesty that could have been avoided. The men and women who have died from asbestos cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer and even non-malignant forms of asbestos disease such as asbestosis deserve a place in our collective memory. We should not forget the injustice that was thrust upon the hardest working of tradesmen and women who built this country. I am talking about Steel and Iron Workers, Navy Sailors, Rosie the Riveters and all kinds of other tradesmen including insulators, steamfitters, pipefitters, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. These people are the so-called “salt of the earth.”

Irrespective of who is to blame, these people did not deserve to have their lives painfully interrupted and abruptly ended. Equally as important is recognizing the survivors: those who are still alive. There aren’t many of them around, and so all the more important to give them their due. To those people who have lived more than 2 years with mesothelioma I say congratulations, you are beating the odds. Never give in!