John Myers, 74, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2018. He is currently not on any medication and awaiting to hear about treatment and trial options.
John, a former RAF pilot, lives in Poole with his wife and dog. He first noticed that something might be wrong when he began to get very breathless walking his dog in the hilly area around his home. John used to be able to do the daily walk with no problems.
He visited his GP at the beginning of October 2018 and was sent for a chest x-ray at Poole Hospital. Following the x-ray, John was told that he needed a chest drain. 2.5 litres of fluid were drained from John’s chest on 19 October.
John felt much better for a little while but following another x-ray on 25 October, he needed another chest drain and a PET scan. He had the PET scan on 1 November and the second chest drain on 5 November when another 2.5 litres of fluid were removed. This time doctors performed a thoracoscopic talc pleurodesis to prevent the fluid build-up. Biopsies were also taken.
The next step was an ECG and blood tests on 13 November before the oncologist was able to give John the diagnosis of mesothelioma on 27 November.
Like many people, neither John nor his wife had ever heard of mesothelioma. They were able to spend some time with the lung cancer nurse who talked everything through with them.
John says that it’s such a shock to hear that you have a terminal illness that it’s hard to take it all in. They were told about the link between mesothelioma and asbestos, and John began to think back to where he might have been exposed.
John joined the RAF in 1968 as a pilot. He remembers being posted at RAF Honington in Suffolk, where he worked in buildings that were being renovated and converted. This wasn’t unusual back then and John recollects being covered in dust from the building works. That dust is the most likely cause of John’s exposure to asbestos.
Following his diagnosis, John was put in touch with HASAG, the asbestos disease support group covering the South and South East of England, London and the Home Counties. The team of Lynne, Lisa, Alison and Jo were “amazing” and introduced John to Mesothelioma UK’s specialist armed forces mesothelioma nurse, Helen Wilkes.
John says that HASAG and Helen have been a tremendous support, helping him to complete all of the necessary paperwork relating to benefits, providing information and putting him in touch with the Veterans’ Welfare Service.
Helen has been able to support John in a way which is relevant to him and his armed forces background. John says that Helen “understands the family affair of the forces and that’s a big help”.
For others who are diagnosed, John has this advice: “Basically they say ‘you’ve got this disease, it is terminal, we can’t cure it but we can manage it’.
“You just think ‘Ah, wait a minute. That’s it, that’s the end’. But it isn’t, you can go on, and people and organisations are there to help you do it. You are not alone.
“At the moment, I’m in the very early stages but I suppose as times goes on, things are going to get sticky and that’s when I’m going to need the information to make my own decision about what I do next and that will be based on what Helen and other nurses tell me.”