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"Asbestos Cancer: One Man's Experience"


In 1989, Kedric Grove was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. He was 72 years old. He had worked in the foundry of the General Motors plant in Defiance, Ohio from 1950 to 1981. He was diagnosed at the Swedish Medical Center Hospital in Seattle. This book, which was written by his daughter, Myrna, addresses all the hopes and fears that families face when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Kedric Grove's treatment history included a thoracentesis, needle biopsy, open lung biopsy, limited thoracotomy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. At the time of his surgery, the tumors were too pervasive along the diaphragm and lung to be removed. In 1989, neither pleurectomy nor radical pneumonectomy were considered by his doctors. He was given 12 to 18 months to live. At that time, they did not know the cell type, which turned out later to be the most aggressive sarcomatous type.

The book in detail describes the treatments and their side effects. Kedric underwent numerous radiation treatments. He originally received cisplatinum chemotherapy, and later he received adriamycin. Kedric lost considerable weight and he experienced chronic pain, which the doctors attempted to control with a partial nerve block, medication and a TENS unit (transcutaneous electic nerve stimulation), which operates like a transistor radio and allows the patient to electrically interrupt the body's own pain signals to various nerve endings.

Myrna's account is touching. She discusses the many books she and her family read to cope with the terminal illness. She offers helpful advice to other families who may be experiencing the same bewilderment and grief. She gives credit to Dr. Bernie Siegel and Norman Cousins for their work in helping terminal patients cope with emotions such as disbelief, fear, denial, depression, and anger.

The book also provides a history of asbestos industry's knowledge of the dangers of their products. Another chapter deals with the government's attempts to regulate the sale and manufacture of asbestos products. Kedric did pursue a lawsuit, and Myrna discusses her family's visits to the attorney and her father's deposition in the hospital.

Toward the end of her 183 page book, Myrna poses the question: "Would Dad have fared as well and suffered less without the treatments?" I liked her answer: "This is a difficult question for which there is no answer. The need to learn about the disease and do something is great. Taking treatments helps one actively deal with the illness. One receives knowledge and sympathetic support from various health care professionals. In taking treatments, one knows he has tried to combat the cancer. As long as there is a glimmer of hope, it is worth reaching for. And if learning about the progression of the disease extends medical science, it is even more worthwhile."

"My father did not pass on the legacy of giving up. Life held much joy and fascination for him. In even the grimmest circumstances, he chose life. He did not do this because he feared death or belittled the afterlife. He just felt being alive was a precious gift."

* * * * * * * *

I read this book on a plane flight to Seattle, where I met with my client Sam Paffile at the same Swedish Medical Hospital where Mr. Grove was diagnosed some eight (8) years earlier. Sam, like Kedric, was also diagnosed by Dr. Sam Hammar. In eight years, much has changed. There are new chemo agents. There are better surgical techniques. Sam underwent a significantly different regimen than Kedric. Sam had the extrapleural pneumonectomy. I told Sam and his wife about this book and recommended it.

No, the book does not have the proverbial "happy ending," as Kedric died after 9 months. But somehow perhaps my life is the richer for knowing that against the odds a man and his family rallied together to keep hope alive.

To order the book, send $12.95 to The Christopher Publishing House, 24 Rockland Street, Hanover, MA 02339. $4 for shipping and handling. Myrna Grove is a school teacher living in Bryan, Ohio.