Community Comes Together to Support Firefighter

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Whenever we hear stories about individuals coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis, we try to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. Scientists are working around the clock to develop better treatments for the disease. Doctors are discovering how complementary forms of medicine, such as massage therapy and acupuncture, can go hand-in-hand with standard therapies to alleviate mesothelioma symptoms. And the patients themselves find ways of keeping their spirits up while battling their illness.

At Mesothelioma Circle, we are as easily touched by the stories of people who come together to assist patients who are not necessarily in their social groups. Taking the time and energy to help someone you do not even know is an admirable gesture, and we found one such story in the News Leader, a news source from Virginia.

A family receives shocking news
The publication covered the story of firefighter Jon Smith. At the age of 29, he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which helped explain why he had developed fatigue and extreme weight loss. The news was devastating for Smith’s family, including his wife, Jennifer, and his teenage stepchildren, Jake, Chris and Maddie. Jon and Jennifer are also parents to a 2-month old daughter, Lily.

At HOPE Cancer Center at Augusta Health, Smith underwent intensive therapy, which entailed both chemotherapy and surgery. The former led to problems with blood sugar, while anti-nausea medication caused burning rashes.

Help comes from loved ones – and strangers
Although Smith’s prognosis after surgery appeared positive, the family was still in a financial bind because Smith’s short tenure as a firefighter made him ineligible for disability benefits. However, without missing a beat, the community around Smith and his family kindly offered their support.

For example, a county deputy held a golf tournament that brought in $7,000 for the family. Also, the Calvary United Methodist Church hosted a spaghetti dinner that raised $20,000. This money played an important role in helping the family keep their house.

One contractor whom the family hired to replace a water line waived the bill and insisted that the money go toward giving the kids a Christmas.

Besides financial aid, people in the community did other things to assist the family. Smith’s fellow firefighters helped Jake complete a project for the Eagle Scouts.

“We cry a lot,” Jennifer told the news source, “But they’re not all sad tears. We’ve been amazed at how people have helped us. We get cards in the mail from people we’ve never even met.”

One year after learning he had mesothelioma, Smith is healthy enough to become a volunteer firefighter, but must undergo regular medical screenings to make sure he stays healthy.

You can help mesothelioma patients, too
The story of the Smiths is another reminder that mesothelioma affects a family as well as the individual diagnosed with the disease. Caregivers can sometimes find themselves worn down because of the responsibilities of looking after the patients while taking care of the rest of the household.

Do you find yourself compelled to help a caregiver who is in charge of a patient who has mesothelioma or other type of cancer? The National Cancer Institute suggests that you can offer to assist with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, yard work, childcare, shopping and transportation to doctors’ visits. Making yourself available for these errands can help caregivers take a break and recharge themselves. Also, you can offer an attentive and sympathetic ear to caregivers who want to discuss their troubles.

Caregivers who need additional support can turn to a variety of online forums. The American Cancer Society has a list of different online resources, such as the Cancer Support Network, the Circle of Sharing and the Support Email Series.

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