A few years ago I was researching information concerning asbestos as I believed that I may have worked with it as a teenager. 35+ years later, and I can still hear my dad’s voice saying to me “ What the Eck are you working there for? You’ll end up with lung cancer, if that stuff gets on your lungs”. I had only just turned 16, fresh out of secondary school, and didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
The company was in Armley, in Leeds. They produced industrial gloves, i.e. for firemen and other industries where protective work clothing was required. For decades – although what my dad had said to me was etched on my sub-conscious memory, I had never worried about it and knew very little about the dangers of asbestos.
What prompted my research was because I developed lung problems and what my dad had said to me previously, suddenly rang alarm bells in my mind! Although a visit to the GP confirmed that it was Asthma, I still couldn’t help being paranoid about the possibility that I had worked with asbestos and I may at some stage develop cancer. My dad described the cancer as a tree growing inside my lungs. Also as asbestos related cancer has a very long latency period, i.e. 20 -50 years, I still had nights where I’d lie awake trying at night to visualize the stiff/coarse grey material I had worked with and match it to asbestos products on Google images.
After putting all the relevant asbestos key words in Google – I came across Debbie Brewer’s blog and read her story; that she had developed mesothelioma, and that it was caused by inhaling asbestos dust on her father’s overalls as a little girl. I contacted Debbie through Facebook and she was very open to chat to me. I told her about my concerns about my possible contact with asbestos, and she was very supportive.
Over the following few years that I was blessed to know Debbie – I noted how incredibly giving she was. So I decided to create a blog on mesothelioma, and if any other sufferers contacted me – I would mention them to Debbie and she’d say “Give them my contact details if you like”. and she would soon take them under her wing, and support and advice them.
Despite her ongoing battle with mesothelioma, she even cared about other people’s more trivial day-to-day problems. I.e. On one occasion I posted (what was considered a minor problem compared to what Debbie was facing) on my Facebook page, and she in boxed me asking me if I was OK. That’s the sort of person Debbie was, and I didn’t just see her as this asbestos ambassador and campaigner, but this wonderful kind-hearted, generous, and self-sacrificing lady.
Sadly – Debbie, age 53 passed away on Sunday 8th June. What I will miss most is seeing her regular posts pop up on Facebook, they were full of love, dignity, and humour, and incredibly inspiring. I think that a lot of the time I thought that she was invincible, because she was so fiercely strong and determined to fight mesothelioma, and I am sure that it was her fighting spirit that instilled so much hope into others.
I have no doubt that Debbie’s legacy in the fight for asbestos awareness will continue. She planted so many seeds and touched thousands of hearts across the globe, and even though she isn’t with us, many people that come across her story will still continue to grow strength from her.
We still have to be mindful that beyond her mesothelioma, Debbie was a devoted mum to 3 children, and I am sure that foremost – they will be grieving the loss of their mother, and not for the mesothelioma warrior she was. So please be sensitive to this fact, and particularly in the forthcoming months.
My thoughts are with her 3 children at this time. I lost my mum to cancer at the age of 14, and I just hope that they will receive all the love and support that they need. . .