Asbestos Cancer Will Kill Me One Day But I'll Save Every Moment

Asbestos Cancer Will Kill Me One Day But I’ll Save Every Moment

As Bryony tells me, we’ll only worry about his growth when it actually happens (Picture: Liam Bradley)

I will always remember the total shock of being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“You have asbestos-related cancer,” the consultant told me in March 2017. “It’s incurable.”

These are words I never thought I would hear, as a fit, healthy 30-year-old man.

Instantly, me and my partner, Bryony, fell apart. I had a two-year-old daughter at home, Nevaeh, whom I adore. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her, of watching her grow up without dad.

I had only been to the hospital because I hit my head during a soft game and cracked my neck in November 2016. I had been nauseous and Bryony had advised me to go straight to the hospital.

I had broken my neck – and my hip, ribs and elbow – after falling from a three-story building while working as a roofer in September 2015, and even though I had just recovered, I was watching closely my health .

There the doctors told me my neck was fine but my right lung had collapsed. They plumped it up and glued it down as a temporary measure but I was booked in for surgery in Feb 2017 to prevent this from happening again.

But during the operation, they spotted some suspicious white spots and took a biopsy, which showed it was asbestos-related cancer. And it couldn’t be healed.

As soon as I was told, I knew exactly where it came from.

In 2006, I had worked on a new property, but we had to attach the roof to an old factory nearby. And when we stopped for lunch, the site manager asked us all to wash our hands because there were traces of asbestos.

I remembered then feeling uneasy. We had no dust masks or other asbestos related health and safety measures.

And now the worst had happened.

When the consultant asked me what symptoms I was suffering from, I could not answer her. I had no symptoms. I was still playing football, I was working full time. I wasn’t out of breath or tired.

I didn’t feel sick at all, but suddenly I received a life-limiting diagnosis.

I didn’t want to know a prognosis – to me it was just a doctor’s best guess and I didn’t want it to weigh on me.

Back home, those next six months were a blur. Because it wasn’t just me who had to live with it. I had to tell my parents, my in-laws, other family members, friends…

Liam with his family

I don’t feel angry about what happened. What would be the goal? (Photo: Liam Bradley)

My mom and dad sobbed when I told them the news. “I can’t bury my son,” mum cried.

It was exactly how I felt. I couldn’t leave my daughter – or my parents – behind. Not at such a young age.

My stepfather, I will always remember, put his arm around me. “We’re all in the queue, Liam,” he told me. “You just know a little more about yourself now.”

These words changed my outlook. I started to believe that I had fallen off that roof to save my life. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital that day, I would never have known about the cancer lurking inside me until it was too late.

I started a treatment trial, where I received four months of chemotherapy and took four pills a day, during which the cancer remained stable. It hasn’t gone away, but it hasn’t grown either.

After that, Bryony, Nevaeh, and I went on a last-minute, three-week vacation to New York, Miami, and Jamaica, where Bryony and I got married in Central Park.

But when we got back, reality hit with a jolt.

I was living my life in 12-week increments between checkups. The days before each scan were a nightmare as I convinced myself that would be when he grew up.

I was too scared to book a vacation, to look too far into the future. ‘Will this be my last birthday, my last Christmas?’ I wonder. It was terrifying.

It was only as the tests kept coming back, showing that the cancer remained stable, that I finally gained confidence. As Bryony tells me, we won’t worry about its growth until it actually happens.

Two years after my diagnosis I took legal action against the company I worked for at the time I was exposed to asbestos I sought the legal advice of Richard Green at Hugh James Solicitors and I received financial compensation.

Obviously no amount of money can make up for my health and I’d pay it all back – and much, much more – if it meant being cancer free, but at least now I know my family has a home for when I’m not more here. It gives us all a sense of security.

We have also bought an apartment in Spain and every month we raffle off a free week’s vacation for people with mesothelioma and their families, or the staff who help them.

I don’t feel angry about what happened. What would be the goal? It wouldn’t change anything.

Instead, I wake up every day feeling positive. Bryony and I have two more daughters, Harper, now three, and Piper, five months, and I love being outnumbered with my daughters.

We didn’t tell them, of course, it’s a heavy enough weight for Bryony and I to carry as adults. We don’t want to put it on their shoulders either.

I still have no symptoms. I’m still working, playing football and taking on physical challenges. I cycled over 200 miles from Gretna Green to Burton-on-Trent and raised £1000 for Mesothelioma UK and also did a 55 mile memorial walk for my late grandmother of the same type of cancer, from Lincoln to Skegness, where she is buried.

I am also fundraising to cycle from Nottingham to Alicante.

No matter what happens in the future, this cancer won’t beat me. Yes, in the years to come hopefully it will probably end up taking my life, but I can’t control that. What I can control is the time I have now and make the most of it.

Liam was helped by Hugh James Solicitors (www.hughjames.com) to seek justice and obtain financial compensation in his lawsuit.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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