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Diary Of A Survivor

Edward Lambert has survived more than his share of challenges and close calls with death. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, when he flew generals from one country to another. He evacuated the injured to various hospital sites during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the course of 31 months in the Air Corps, his C-47 was shot at sixteen times and hit once by a Japanese PT boat. As an employee of NASA in 1970, he was part of the team of technicians who helped the storied Apollo 13 astronauts return home safely. Once, a would-be robber stuck a loaded .45 in his face -- scary, but Ed didn't panic. During one of his recent bad spells -- triggered by his malignant mesothelioma -- he's even seen "the lights" reported by others in near-death and out-of-body experiences.

Ed Lambert has survived the loss of his wife Dorothy. They had been married for 54 years when she died of double pneumonia and complications due to diabetes on Christmas Eve, 1993. "She's been gone nine years. I didn't think I could live without her; it's been hard, but I've done it."

Now, Ed is trying to survive his biggest challenge -- mesothelioma. His work as a plasterer and insulator at construction sites around Texas exposed him to massive quantities of asbestos. Ed was initially diagnosed with asbestosis in 1994 during a routine screening for asbestos-related disease.

In November of 1998, Ed consulted his doctor after experiencing difficulty breathing with minimal exertion. A chest x-ray revealed a large pleural effusion on the right side. He was immediately admitted to Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital in Kerrville, Texas for further workup. Dr. J.B. Silman performed a thoracentesis, withdrawing bilious fluid which was sent to the pathology lab. Tests there confirmed the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.

While in the hospital, Ed developed a reaccumulation of fluid. A talc pleurodesis quelled the fluid build-up by the time of his discharge. Mr. Lambert was referred to Dr. Rebecca E. Barrington, an Oncologist at the Cancer Care Network of Texas in Kerrville, Texas. During his follow-up visit with Dr. Barrington, Ed was referred to M.D. Anderson for a second opinion and to investigate the treatment options available to him at a more disease-specific cancer center.

Ed declined the treatment offered by M.D. Anderson: "They wanted to remove the whole lung . . . Who wants to be left with half of a body? I didn't." Moreover, he was not presented with any data that showed a meaningful increase in life span from the tri-modal therapy approach. He also factored in the "quality of life" issues, which did not seem to favor radical surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Ed chose alternative therapies as his treatment for mesothelioma, namely massage therapy and chelation therapy, which aims to improve metabolic and circulatory function by removing toxic metals (such as lead and cadmium) and abnormally located nutritional metallic ions (such as iron) from the body. He first heard of this treatment through family members who resided in Europe and swore by it. Chelation therapy entails a two and one-half hour session of injections once a week and has traditionally been used to treat heart disorders.

Ed Lambert, 2001

Ed discontinued this therapy after four or five treatment sessions because he felt it was accomplishing nothing and was just too expensive. Now, he practices "mind over matter" and the power of positive thinking; however, they too are becoming increasingly difficult, as the depression he endures is overwhelming:

"The spiritual part is the worst, you are born and grow up thinking you'll never die; death is far from your mind. Then something like this comes up, and you now know you're going to die - it's very depressing." Ed continues, "God told me, 'If you want to die, go ahead.' There are times when it's hard to just get up in the morning; I'm weak, my immune system is working overtime and I'm stuck with having to rely on my electric wheelchair to get around at home."

Ed fights the depression by staying busy "100 percent" of the time. Every morning he wakes up and appreciates making it through the night. He will do whatever he can to stay alive. Ed says to our readers, "I've lived a good life and I'm not afraid of death, but if there is anything to take care of this [mesothelioma], let me know."

Ed has found a new reason to live. In 1999, he moved to Kona, located on the big island of Hawaii, for "better breathing." The cedar fever in the Texas Hill Country can make a person's life miserable. According to Ed, life in Hawaii was not exactly paradise, but it was where he met his fianceé, Jherri. "Our meeting was like one you see in the movies . . . it was fate that brought us together."

The story goes that Ed bought his caregiver Mary a 1976 Lincoln Town Car. The car was in mint condition, with only 12,000 miles on it. There was a woman who showed up too late to buy the same car -- Jherri. A few days later Ed and Mary had gone out for dinner and a movie. When Mary went next door to see what was showing at the theater, she ran into Jherri. The two ladies returned to where Ed was to discuss selling the Town Car to Jherri because it was just too big a car for Mary. "When I saw her, it was love at first sight, and we've been together ever since." Even with a terminal cancer like mesothelioma, Ed's biggest fear is the possibility of losing his eyesight: "I don't think I could handle that."

Ed does not like to dwell on the negative, but he has had bad times, which sometimes come flooding in and are hard to turn off. He says the hardest part of dealing with his cancer is knowing that people made money from these products and the workers who helped them make this money are dying. "There were 109 of us plasterers back then, and of those there are only two of us alive. I swear I don't know how I'm still alive."

Ed Lambert is a testament to the power of the will to survive. We will keep you posted on the progress of this amazing man.

*** POSTED MAY 29, 2001 ***

Mr. Lambert passed away on May 1, 2002

I am sorry to hear about EJ passing. I met him at the video store I work at, on a Friday night. Barbara Lee and EJ were walking by and decided to rent some videos.

It was a complete joy meeting and knowing EJ. He was a very kind, funny, and dear person. Always willing to lend a hand or say something funny. Keeping his spirits up while dealing with the pain inside his body. He was still on the go even before his passing. He is missed.

Renee O'Donnell