Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Orleans wedding raises mesothelioma awareness

A recent wedding at Southern Oaks Plantation in New Orleans included a unique fashion worn by both wedding party members and wedding guests. The bride, Rebecca, of nearby Marrero, Louisiana, provided all 250 wedding attendants with mesothelioma awareness wrist bands, in honor of her mother Catherine Cook, who recently died from the deadly cancer at age 56. “We wanted everyone to be aware of what this terrible disease does, and how senseless it is,” Rebecca said.

Catherine was possibly exposed to mesothelioma’s cause, toxic asbestos, when her father and first husband worked at an insulation factory. Asbestos fibers may have been brought home on her husband’s clothes, which she washed every day.

Until her mesothelioma symptoms began appearing, Catherine was a healthy woman who enjoyed exercise and outdoor recreation. Her daughter Rebecca said, “At first when my mom was sick, people would say, ‘I didn’t’ know your mother smoked.’ But she didn’t smoke. She never smoked. She never drank. She lived a healthy life. She didn’t bring this upon herself. It’s really scary to think they still are producing products with asbestos when they knew long ago, it was killing people.”

Rebecca has taken it upon herself to raise awareness for mesothelioma, knowing how many people still do not understand the cause or development of the rare cancer. She said, “It still amazes me how little people know about mesothelioma. When people ask me about my wristband, I’m happy to explain. Some of my friends still wear their bands. Even my mom, when she knew she was dying, she’d say, `I wish I had gotten breast cancer instead. At least then, people would understand what I have.’ ”

“In a perfect world, I’d like to become this amazing scientist and find a cure for mesothelioma, or at least find a way to test people early, to stop it from reaching the stage where there is nothing you can do,” Rebecca said. She continued, “What I’d like someday is to have kids of my own and, start a non-profit organization to raise money for research to find a cure. I’d spend my whole life raising money for this cause if it could spare one family from having to go through what my mother went through. She was the best mother anyone could ask for, but near the end, she couldn’t walk five feet without needing oxygen. I just feel the need to do something about this disease. She would want me to help find a cure.”

After several misdiagnoses, Catherine was properly diagnosed with mesothelioma in March of 2009. She and her family traveled to Boston and Texas looking for experts that could help her fight mesothelioma successfully. Sadly, She died within a year.

“It’s such a terrible thing to watch someone go through this,” Rebecca said of her mother’s fight against mesothelioma. “I saw what my mom went through, and it was like watching someone drown, like she was slowly suffocating. It just seemed like compared to most diseases, the doctors didn’t have any real answers.

“My mother was like my best friend. We used to double date sometimes, her and my stepfather, me and my fiancĂ©. I know she would have loved the wedding.”