Julia’s story

Julia Tabreham, a support group attendee who was diagnosed with mesothelioma 5 years ago, has shared her brave story:

“Heading out to work five and a half years ago I had no idea my life was going to change completely in the space of a few hours.

I had left home apparently fit and well only to be hit from behind at a red light by a car travelling at speed. A routine chest x-ray in A&E showed a worrying lesion (about the size of a ten pence piece) on my left lung. Three doctors came in to break the news to me and I realised my whiplash was now going to be the least of my problems.

The speed with which Derby Hospitals worked was incredible. Within 24 hours I had had my first CT scan.

Two days later I met with a respiratory consultant who told me the lesion was in the pleura and not the lung itself. He also said he thought it looked benign. I took hope only for it to be crushed a week later, one week before Christmas, with biopsy results and a diagnosis of Epithelioid Mesothelioma.

Having had no cough or any sign of illness the shock was beyond belief, and vomiting with fear was a regular feature of my sleepless life for months. The worst part of all was having to break the news to my family. I felt so guilty for putting them through it and spent hours looking for stories of hope and clinging on to anything I found that could give me a glimmer of positivity in those darkest of days. I was desperate to live yet simultaneously suicidal because I could not bear the pain I was putting my loved ones through. I dreaded facing leaving them much earlier than I wanted to.

I was referred to the incredible Mr Nakas and others in his surgical team at Glenfield. Although my outlook looked bleak his positive attitude and force of nature was an early life raft for me to cling to. Shortly after Christmas he performed a Pleuralectomy, and as I have not yet needed chemo, or other treatment, I remain under the care of the surgical team there attending quarterly scans to keep an eye out for early signs of change.

Professor Fennell has also fitted me into his busy diary to meet and discuss the microbiology of my disease and how he predicts it will behave going forward. As a result of our meeting I have now joined three clinical trial boards as a patient voice.

The advances in understanding of our disease and new ways to treat it being developed from these and other trials are incredible. I am so grateful for everything people are doing to fight and conquer it for us.

I promised that if I survived for five years I would share my story with others facing our diagnosis in the hope it would help someone out there in the traumatic early days of their Mesothelioma journey. So here I am, with stable disease and still fit and healthy and five and a half years on from those dark days.

I have learnt that no one goes to hell and comes back empty-handed.

Having to face to likelihood of my early death I had no option other than to face it head on. As a result, I cherish every second I have been given in a way I would not have thought possible. The smallest of things brings me joy. No longer a workaholic, the best part is my family no longer treat me with kid gloves. I have been here for the passing of my Mother, and welcomed two new grandchildren who I had not imagined being here to meet. I have discovered that aqua aerobics, which I do four times a week, really helps with post-surgical pain. Also, that post-thoracic-surgical support underwear helps incredibly, and I wish I had known about it some years ago.

Since recovery from surgery, I have continued to travel with my Husband Steve. I am including a recent picture of me dog sledding in Norway and have recently returned from the Galapagos. We have also bought a motorhome and, having travelled right around the coast of England, Wales and Ireland, have discovered a love of the New Forest to which we will return next month to see the baby foals that have been born.”

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Disclaimer: These stories are based on personal experience and do not constitute medical advice. We recommend you speak to your healthcare team or phone our support line if you have any questions relating to your care or treatment.