A diagnosis of mesothelioma is, without a doubt, a very scary one. But is mesothelioma always fatal?
The answer is that while a mesothelioma prognosis isn’t great, there are people out there who have survived mesothelioma.
5 People Who Survived Mesothelioma
It’s important to remember that even with statistics showing low survivability rates when it comes to mesothelioma, they are only statistics. There are always outliers – survivors – who beat the odds.
There is nothing to say that you can’t be one of those people who beat the odds. Do such people invest? Yes, actually, they do.
1. Paul Kraus
Born in 1944, Paul Kraus is probably the most famous mesothelioma survivor, mostly because he’s also the oldest documented survivor of the illness.
He amazingly survived a Nazi forced labor camp in WWII, which was the first sign in his life that he’s truly a survivor. In 1997, Paul faced the second most terrifying threat in his life – a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
It wasn’t just a diagnosis, it was the worst kind. It was late-state “terminal” mesothelioma.
The cancer had spread throughout his body, and doctors didn’t give him very long to survive.
Working with his doctors, Paul developed a treatment plan that included significant lifestyle changes, dietary changes, experimental therapy, and more.
Paul was able to keep the cancer at bay, and went on to write a popular, best-selling book titled “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide”. It’s a book that anyone diagnosed with the illness should read.
Paul’s famous quote from his ordeal is that “a diagnosis is not destiny”. He believes that a diagnosis is a doctor’s evaluation of your condition, but it isn’t something that can’t be changed by taking action right away.
Is mesothelioma always fatal? Paul’s story is evidence that it isn’t always.
2. Heather Von St. James
Almost as impressive as Paul’s survival story is Heather Von St. James. In 2005, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 36.
Dr. John Doyle, her family doctor, checked her following symptoms of what she thought was a chest cold. After a blood test, he found she was anemic so put her on iron pills. After the symptoms didn’t go away, the doctor ordered a more exhaustive blood test and X-rays.
The X-ray turned up evidence of a tumor. The pulminologist gave her the bad news. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma. The doctor told her that she likely wouldn’t live much longer than 15 months. With traditional cancer treatments, she could live at least 5 or 10 more years if she was lucky.
After a referral to a doctor in Boston, she had surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy – the removal of the lung, half the diaphram, the lining of the heart and one rib.
She lived over 11 years after surgery, beyond what her primary care doctor predicted.
It’s an amazing story of survival. It’s also a near miracle – and evidence that even in the world of mesothelioma, such miracles are possible. You can read her whole story on her blog.
3. Mike Mattmuller
At 29 years old, Mike Mattmuller of Maryland started experiencing the typical symptoms that go along with mesothelioma – shortness of breath and fatigue.
Similar to Healther’s story, an X-ray exam revealed that Mike had pleural mesothelioma. Like Heather, Mike’s prognosis was poor, but his mesothelioma was early stage. Also, he was younger than most patients which made him an excellent candidate for surgery
Mike received both chemotherapy, and the same aggressive surgery Heather went through – extrapleural pneumonectomy. Mike’s surgery took place in 2012. In his case, one lung and its lining was removed.
His cancer went into remission, and he lived well beyond the typical 5 year prognosis most patients with his form of mesothelioma face.
Mike didn’t stop at survival. He started to volunteer for the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Working for that organization he’s spoken to the U.S. Congress to advocate for the ban of asbestos. He also works to raise awareness and funding for mesothelioma research.
Mike’s story is proof that a mesothelioma diagnosis doesn’t have to mark the end of life. Sometimes, it can mark a new beginning.
4. Michael Cole
Michael went to his family doctor because he had a cough and was fatigued. The doctor sent him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma shortly after.
The doctors warned him that there really wasn’t a lot of hope for mesothelioma patients.
Michael Cole eventually received a referral to see world-renowned mesothelioma specialize Dr. David Sugarbaker.
The surgery removed Michael’s right lung and lining, and was followed by chemotherapy. Michael described the surgery as feeling like he’d “gotten hit by a truck.” Following the surgery he said he had no strength and was very dependent on his wife to care for him.
After three months, Michael started feeling better and went back to his office job, pausing only to have another phase of chemotherapy.
Michael explains in a YouTube video that a mesothelioma diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The key to increasing the chances for beating the prognosis is to stay positive throughout the ordeal.
5. Andy Ashcraft
Andy’s case was very different than the others described above. In 2010, Andy was diagnosed with stage IV malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Like most patients with pleural mesothelioma, the prognosis didn’t look good.
At first, doctors attempted an immunotherapy clinical trial on Andy, which appeared to have a positive effect. It helped him to survive for three years following his diagnosis.
However, the tumors in his lungs continued to grow, and doctors suggested Andy and his family should consider hospice care and prepare for the worst.
Instead of giving up, Andy and his wife Ruth turned to the alternative treatment of cannabis oil. In a fascinating turn of events, Andy’s cancer started to go into remission.
Andy continued with the cannabis oil treatments and exercise, and by 2014 completely stopped chemotherapy. He is now 69 years old and enjoying his retirement, as a healthy retired man.
Like most mesothelioma survivors, Andy credits his recovery to a positive attitude throughout his ordeal. However, unlike most other survivors, he also credits cannibis oil.
The use of cannabis oil isn’t an approved treatment by most mesothelioma doctors, and shouldn’t be attempted without a doctor’s approval. However many mesothelioma patients, in the last stages of their treatment — when all hope is lost — sometimes turn to alternative treatments.
Andy’s example is evidence that sometimes those alternative treatments work.
Your Own Survival Story
The important lesson to learn from all of these stories is that even when facing the most dire prognosis, there is always hope. Medical science can only take medical tests and analyze pictures on an X-ray.
They can’t measure the strength of the human heard, or gauge the effect of the human spirit. What all of these cases show is that there is a great deal to be said about the power of hope and positive thinking when you’re facing off against a foe like mesothelioma. And yes, it’s possible to win the fight.