Alan Sheppard was torn from his wife only a month after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. His death prompted his widow, Jan, 55, to join with the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team in the group’s fight to raise awareness for asbestos related diseases.
Alan Sheppard contracted the disease from learning how to be an electrician when he was 16 and, his widow noted, “My husband should not be dead. He was too young to die.”
The Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team and dozens of other asbestos disease support groups met on February 27, 2009 for Action Mesothelioma Day. Awareness of the difficulties of asbestos victims and government funded research were the goals for the groups.
As Jan Sheppard said of the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team, they aimed for a system in the UK similar to that of Australia: “The Australian government funds research to develop better treatment for mesothelioma… We in the UK want similar hope. Sadly there was no hope for my husband.”
Currently, most of the research into treatments for asbestos-related diseases comes from private funds and charities like the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team. With government backing, research into a cure for asbestosis or mesothelioma could be reached faster.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissues lining the lungs. Its only known cause is inhalation of asbestos fibers, most often occurring on the job. The victims of mesothelioma often were exposed to asbestos during the course of earning a living, like Alan Sheppard. While it can take decades after exposure before the cancer manifests itself, once a diagnosis is made, the victim only has months to live. Current treatments have shown little gains in fighting the cancer and are only given to ease some of the discomfort of those with mesothelioma. Often, this form of asbestos-caused cancer is a death sentence.
Said Jan Sheppard of her husband, “His premature death was caused by merely going out to work.
“We were looking forward to our retirement and growing old together in such a beautiful part of Derbyshire, but that has all been taken away from us.
“We need to find a cure for this cruel and devastating disease.”