Mesothelioma Guide Senior Content Writer Camryn Keeble recently sat down with mesothelioma survivor Gary Maxwell for an interview. He shared his experience with this devastating disease and how it has affected his life today. You can read his full story here and watch the interview below.
Gary Maxwell is an 8.5-year pleural mesothelioma survivor. He radiates positive energy and a good attitude. He enjoys the little things in life, like taking the long way home, watching the birds on his front porch with his wife, taking his 9-month-old golden retriever for rides on his gator, and cherishing time spent with his grandchildren.
He wasn’t always so pleased by the simplicities of life, though.
Gary’s life changed forever – but for the better – on November 3, 2014, when he received his biopsy results with the words “malignant mesothelioma.”
Be Your Own Advocate
One day, while splitting wood at home, Gary couldn’t catch a full breath, so he decided to make an appointment with his family doctor. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics. However, his mesothelioma symptoms continued with no change.
He returned to the doctor 10 days later and was given another round of antibiotics, but still no improvement. His family doctor urged him to visit the local emergency room for further evaluation.
At the hospital, they determined Gary would need to undergo a thoracentesis, which is a common procedure for removing excess fluid from the pleural space (between the lungs and chest wall). The buildup of fluid in the pleura is a common mesothelioma symptom called pleural effusion. Doctors sent a fluid sample to the lab for review, and the results came back atypical.
After the thoracentesis, Gary’s symptoms persisted, so he returned for a second thoracentesis, hoping for better results. Doctors did not plan to perform a tissue biopsy during the procedure, but Gary’s wife, Donna, demanded it. The biopsy results came back as malignant mesothelioma.
Gary credits his wife for saving his life that day because when they left the hospital, his symptoms disappeared. There was no sign of illness, and Gary could finally take a full breath, but he now knew he was not in good shape. He knew he needed to get rid of this disease if he wanted a chance at life.
If it wasn’t for his persistent wife on the day of his second thoracentesis, Gary’s story may have ended differently. Because Gary was diagnosed early, he was able to begin mesothelioma treatment right away and get rid of the disease as fast as possible. He went through four rounds of mesothelioma chemotherapy before undergoing a pleurectomy with decortication surgery performed by Dr. Joseph Friedberg.
Now, Gary has a new outlook on life because of his journey with mesothelioma. He enjoys the things he may not have before he was diagnosed. He doesn’t take life so seriously anymore and has found peace in daily living.
For more inspiring stories like Gary’s, check out the Survivors page, which features accounts of other mesothelioma survivors. You can also visit Mesothelioma Guide’s Free Shop and have a Survivor’s Guide delivered directly to your home at zero cost.
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