Valerie Rodriguez, a loving wife, caring mother and adoring grandmother, developed mesothelioma and died from it at the age of 59. She’d always been a healthy, active and a cheerful person. So when the news of her having pleural mesothelioma came as a shocking discovery, Valerie did not lose hope and regained her spirit with the help of her family.
It all began in the summer of 1998, while spending time with her two grand-children that Valerie started to feel a lot of pain on the right side of her chest. Initially, she considered the pain to be a heart-attack and was rushed to the hospital. Upon doctor’s examination, no indication of a heart-attack was diagnosed. The doctors at Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York, ran some x-ray tests on Valerie, which showed some accumulation of liquid at the base of her right lung, also known as pleurisy.
On 21st July, 1998, Valerie was declared to have a viral condition and had the fluid removed from her right lung. Even after the liquid was removed, Valerie underwent great discomfort and pain. On August 5, 1998, a lung biopsy was conducted on Valerie that diagnosed the shocking and terrible disease of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer. Much to her surprise, Valerie had never smoked a cigarette nor did any of her family members. The doctors gave Valerie a rough estimation about her decreased lifespan of 6 – 10 months. Valerie and her family grieved with more pain and sadness. When informed about the asbestos as the real cause of her problem, Valerie remembered her youthful days in her hometown in New Mexico.
Valerie lived with her father and brother in Hobbs, New Mexico, before moving to New York with her husband. Valerie’s mother died giving birth to her brother, Justin, when she was just 5 years old. Both, Valerie and her brother, were raised by their grandmother while their father worked in the nearby oil fields as a boilermaker. Unable to make both ends meet, Valerie had to stay at home doing chores rather than attending school. Valerie still remembered those days when she had to wash her father’s clothes with her own hands. Unaware of the white substance that her father used to bring with his clothes, Valerie was also exposed to harmful asbestos almost everyday that later caused her mesothelioma. Her father passed away developing severe cough and pain when Valerie was 24, though his diagnosis for mesothelioma was never confirmed.
As part of their ongoing struggle towards finding a cure, Valerie and her husband, Wilbur Johnson, began investigating and researching about the disease and started consulting with almost every doctor in the USA. Additionally, as an act of desperation, Valerie underwent several treatments ranging from painful and ineffective chemotherapies to adopting special diet programs. But none of the remedies were successful. Slowly and gradually, Valerie’s situation deteriorated and she became lethargic and disheartened. Even her health began to get worse.
Finally, they met with Dr. Eric Peterson of the New York University Medical Center who suggested them about pneumonectomy as their final option. Dr. Peterson informed the Johnsons about the survival chances of Valerie. He said that even if the surgery was successful, there was no guarantee that Valerie would be cured from mesothelioma; it could only give Valerie some more time to live. Hoping and praying for the best, Valerie decided to undergo the pneumonectomy.
On 15th September 1998, a pneumonectomy was performed on Valerie in which her right lung was surgically removed. After the surgery, Valerie developed some complications with her only left lung. This complicatedness of her situation led her to go in coma. 48 hours later, on 17th September 1998, Valerie passed away.
Note: Names have been changed to retain the anonymity of the entities.