When I first learned that I had mesothelioma, followed by the estimated amount of time the doctors assumed I had left, I felt like I wouldnít live the next day to help myself, let alone help others. Yet, here I am sharing my story, because I am a firm believer that everything does happen for a reason. Perhaps itís my mission to open up and bring hope to you and your loved ones, who may be facing the same fear and confusion I did when I was diagnosed with a toxic illness. My name Katherine Keys and this is my story of fear and dread that eventually led to positivity and encouragement.
For almost a decade now, Iíve been fighting and living with malignant mesothelioma, a life-threatening illness thatís primarily caused by asbestos exposure. The survival rate for mesothelioma is grim, with many people passing away within five years or less after diagnosis. When I heard how poor the prognosis was, I was frozen with immense fear and intense feelings of detriment thatís tough to describe. My emotions began spinning so far out of control that it became almost impossible to go on each day.
Unfortunately, as the weeks passed, my emotional pain didnít decrease. In fact, there came a point where I lost control of my feelings and began lashing out, crying uncontrollably, and wondering if it was even worth it to keep fighting for my life each day.
Finally, after growing accustomed to such a traumatic event, I paused to reflect. Should I keep living in emotional agony over something I canít reverse or should I move on and do my best to fight the illness? My smarter senses fortunately kicked in, and I realized that my stress and emotional state was actually making things much worse. My fear and worry were literally taking over my life, until I decided to take things day and day. I made up my mind to not let this illness consume me. Thatís when I decided to soldier on and see what treatments could help me.
I began listening to my doctor, trying out a variety of treatments, and eventually had one of my lungs removed. I also went through numerous days and weeks and chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I discovered alternative forms of treatment that I would have never thought of before, such as reiki healing and meditation. I changed my diet and began incorporating more green leafy vegetables, fruits, and lean meats into my daily recipes, which helped tremendously while experience the side effects of treatment.
A little note to keep in mind: If your doctor recommends chemotherapy, there may be points in time where you simply cannot hold down food without feeling nauseated. I handled this by eating bland foods without seasoning, and I didnít concentrate on how much I ate, just that I did eat something. Nutrition is especially important when going through chemo, and if you are having issues of vomiting, be certain to talk to a dietician, who can help you formulate recipes that arenít too harsh on your stomach.
In addition to diet changes and undergoing treatment, I started to process my emotions better through the help of counseling, and most importantly, I restored my faith and tried to remain positive.
Dark thoughts and stress can enter the minds of just about anyone whoís been diagnosed with such an aggressive and toxic disease such as mesothelioma. Needless to say, I did and still do have bad days where I have to battle my emotional demons, but as I continue to do so, Iíve learned that keeping a bright outlook and hope is one of the most important parts of treatment. Stress can lead to additional illnesses and can accelerate your disease even faster. If you have a support system, whether it be friends, family, or both, keep them close and donít be afraid to reach out for help. I was amazed at how much a hug or even simple words of encouragement could brighten my day.
As I learned these coping mechanisms and more time passed, I had a startling revelation that it was ultimately me fighting a battle against myself. Of course, I couldnít have come this far or to this realization without the help of family, friends, doctors, and even legal experts who helped me understand that I donít have to handle the financial burden of this expensive disease all by myself.
Once I realized I was fighting against myself when I really didnít have to, something changed in me, and I decided I could beat this disease against all odds. Here I am, nine years later, hoping that you too will find it in you to see that you can still live a positive, healthy life, despite the average mesothelioma survival rate.
There are still challenges, of course, mostly physical more than emotional these days, as expected with a debilitating illness. But I always keep the words that a friend told me close to my heart, and it helps me get through each day, and take it step by step with a positive attitude.
ďKatherine, youíre not dying from cancer, youíre living with it.Ē
Live your life as if you donít have a care in the world, even if the pain is dragging you down. Donít let an illness define you. Define your own self by proving that you have the strength that we all have when faced with adversity. Above all, hold on to faith, because you never know what medical breakthrough is just around the corner.