Jerry Griffith is a soon to be 15 year survivor of pleural mesothelioma. When he was diagnosed in 2001, he was told he only had months to live, and he believed it. So much so that he almost refused treatment. Now Jerry is about to turn 71 and celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lynne.
Facing His Scary Diagnosis
Jerry worked as a middle school teacher for 35 years but by September 2001 he had developed a painful cough. He decided to go see his family doctor to get it checked out. His doctor sent him to get a chest scan and from there he was sent to a lung specialist. By the time Jerry arrived at the lung specialist’s office, he was feeling terrible.
After surgery, recovery, and a trip to the oncologist, Jerry was finally diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. His doctor estimated that he only had 6 to 9 months to live but recommended treatment with chemotherapy.
Fortunately, his wife and his friends convinced him to start chemotherapy. They explained that if he tries the treatment it could extend his life or improve his condition. Jerry took their wise advice and has lived over 20 times as long as he expected. Jerry has been on and off chemotherapy since he was diagnosed but is happy to say that he is currently doing well without it.
Jerry’s Advice for Other Patients
“My advice to people who have recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma is that they SHOULD talk to an oncologist, and compare the different approaches that can be taken to help them. The news is scary, BUT it may not mean the worst. Just remember, ASK questions, do not be afraid to use your intelligence to question what is happening to you.”
There is Hope
“I feel that it is very important that people with this disease, who are not as fortunate as I have been, can have some hope for a good life. Lynne and I have gone through some real bad times, but we have and continue to be able to have a productive and happy retirement. In early August we are off to Hawaii with our children and our grandchild (he is 25) to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary! That is something we never thought would happen 15 years ago!”
“One other thing to do is to be extremely thankful for all your doctors, nurses, people who administer tests, and anyone else who cares for you. The health professionals that have cared for me for 15 years have been outstanding! I can honestly state that I have NEVER been treated improperly by anyone in a doctor’s office, a testing place, or the hospital. They are wonderful people.”
“Chemotherapy can be very challenging! When you start a new chemo you can become quite ill. Each time my chemo had to be changed I did have a bad reaction, so bad that I was in the hospital for about a week. I then got well and then continued the same chemo or a slight change to it by my oncologist. I did not get sick again while I was getting it. I did get weak, tired, and depressed at times, but those bad times pass. I continued to do what my doctor told me to do and tried getting my life back to as normal as I could.”
Growing up in the Asbestos City
Jerry and his only brother grew up in New Jersey. When he was 10 years old his family moved to a city called Hillsborough, just outside of Manville. The town of Manville was named after the the Johns-Manville Corporation.
He lived there until he got married and moved away at age 21. The factory in Manville was once the largest of the Johns Manville factories. Not only was the town named after the company, it was also nicknamed “The Asbestos City.” Pieces of asbestos would float through the sky like snow throughout the year.
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