Most types of cancer arise from a wide variety of causes and exposures, including genetics, poor diet, and other lifestyle choices, but that is not the case with malignant mesothelioma. The rare and fatal form of cancer comes from just one thing – exposure to asbestos – and in the majority of cases, that exposure takes place on the job. But as more has been learned about the disease’s risk factors, it has become painfully apparent that those who worked in close proximity to the carcinogenic material often unwittingly exposed their family members via fibers they carried home on their work clothes, hair and skin. This is known as secondary asbestos exposure, and it often strikes families that have already suffered a mesothelioma loss. Vivienne Swain’s family knows this all too well.
Vivienne Swain is the second person in her family to die of mesothelioma. The first was her husband, who worked with the material on a day-to-day basis in his years working construction. It wasn’t until after he had passed that she began having a hard time breathing, and was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma herself. She learned that like many other family members of people lost to the disease, she had been exposed to asbestos fibers for all of the years that he had worked with the material, breathing it in when she laundered his dust-covered overalls at the end of each work week.
After her diagnosis, Vivienne became an advocate for those exposed to asbestos, raising awareness about mesothelioma and second-hand exposure. In the United Kingdom, asbestos-related diseases have claimed many lives, with roughly 2,500 mesothelioma victims lost each year. Her partner fondly recalled her work on behalf of victims, saying, ‘It’s opened my eyes – I didn’t known what mesothelioma was before. When you used to look at the statistics it was always an old man’s disease – something that affected joiners, carpenters and railway workers. When Vivienne was diagnosed she was the youngest in her support group.”
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos, whether on the job or anywhere else, it is important for you to know your risks and your rights. For information, contact us at 1-800-966-2244.