Stories of Mesothelioma Survivors Inspire Hope Among Patients

by Faith Franz.

When cancer survivors share their stories, they do more than highlight their own experiences – they provide others with hope for similar success.

Survivor stories can help patients with rare cancers such as mesothelioma feel less isolated by their condition. They can also help patients with a terminal diagnosis see that there is hope for beating their disease – even if their doctor tells them otherwise. Patients can bond over these stories by talking about their experiences in person, or they can reach a wider group of mesothelioma patients through the Internet.

For mesothelioma patients, these stories exemplify the power of storytelling. Through survivor stories mesothelioma patients can discover hope, healing perspectives and even treatment tips. Mesothelioma does not always respond well to the traditional treatment regimen of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. However, an increasing number of patients are finding success in alternate measures and sharing their unique approach to treatment with the rest of the mesothelioma community.

One peritoneal mesothelioma patient, Tammy Frank, received a six-month prognosis. Twelve years later, she’s still beating the disease and enjoying each day with her family.

Another survivor, Bob Oberstar, has managed his pleural mesothelioma with alternative therapies since 2005. He underwent surgery, but opted out of chemotherapy, which he feared would reduce his quality of life. Instead, he is successfully managing his disease with an antioxidant-rich diet and a stimulating exercise program.

These are just two stories that mesothelioma patients can look to for inspiration. Patients are continually coming forward to share their stories.

Stories of Hope

Since mesothelioma is a rare cancer, there are few mesothelioma-exclusive support groups. However, The Mesothelioma Center launched the Stories of Hope project to bring survivor stories to others who are dealing with the exact same disease.

Tim Povtak, the journalist who compiles most of the survivor stories, exchanges phone calls and emails with mesothelioma patients across the nation. Most of the survivors find out about the program through patient advocates or through the online mesothelioma community. Over the course of several days, they explain their experiences, and Povtak helps highlight the parts that other patients could find inspiration in.

The Stories of Hope project has expanded since its launch. Povtak now works more than ever on interviewing patients and compiling their stories, and he publishes one or more new stories every month. The stories have taken on a more personal approach, highlighting the patient’s life and individuality in addition to their path towards healing.

The storytelling program has helped connect patients across the globe. Readers have the option of commenting on the stories – either on the website or on the Facebook group, and many patients send the featured patient well wishes and questions. Readers are often eager to hear updates and send support throughout the experience – and featured patients are certainly encouraged to know that their stories are impacting others.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

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