A Father's Unexpected Diagnosis
- After Liam Bradley took a fall while on the job as a roofer, breaking his neck and other bones, he began to take safety extremely seriously. That’s why after another fall the next year, he went straight to his doctor.
- But doctors found something else that was concerning while operating on his collapsed lung: asbestos-related cancer.
- Asbestos is a known carcinogen. It was widely used in commercial products in the U.S. until the 1970s, when reports linked it to cancers like mesothelioma.
- Now, Liam is vowing to spend as much time with his wife and daughter as possible and to make the most of the time he has left.
In an essay written for Metro, Liam Bradley recounted how he had a nasty fall from a three-story building in September 2015 while at work as a roofer. That fall had ended with a broken neck, hip, ribs and elbow. So it was understandable that when he fell again, this time at a soft play, in November 2016, he took his health seriously and went to go get checked out.Read More
It was during that operation that doctors found something unexpected: suspicious white flecks in Bradley’s lungs.
When results from a biopsy came back, it showed that Bradley had asbestos-related cancer.
“As soon as I was told, I knew exactly where it was from,” wrote Bradley. “Back in 2006, I’d worked on a newbuild property but we’d had to join the roof to an older factory next door. And when we’d stopped for lunch, the site manager had asked us all to wash our hands because there was evidence of asbestos. I remembered then feeling uneasy. We didn’t have dust masks or any other asbestos-related health and safety.”
Asbestos And Lung Cancer
Asbestos is a known carcinogen. It was widely used in commercial products in the U.S. until the 1970s, when reports linked it to cancers like mesothelioma.
Declining smoking rates have led to an improved outlook for lung cancer since cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for the disease. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths, and people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who don’t smoke.
However, some cases of lung cancer can be linked to other causes, including exposure to carcinogens like asbestos.
“Some lung cancers are from unknown exposure to air pollution, radon or asbestos,” Dr. Raja Flores, system chair of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai, previously told SurvivorNet. “We also see more never-smokers with lung cancer who have a family history of it.”
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The news was devastating for Bradley and his partner, Bryony. The pair had a two-year-old daughter, Nevaeh.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her, of her growing up without a daddy,” said Bradley.
Despite the diagnosis, Bradley said he had no symptoms, still feeling energetic, still working, still playing soccer.
“I didn’t feel ill at all, yet suddenly I’d been given a life-limiting diagnosis,” he wrote. “I didn’t want to know a prognosis – to me, they were just a doctor’s best guess and I didn’t want that hanging over me.”
But it was words from his father-in-law that changed how he saw his situation.
“We’re all in the queue, Liam. You just know a bit more about yourself now.”
“Those words changed my outlook,” said Bradley. “I started to believe I’d fallen off that roof in order to save my life. If I hadn’t gone to hospital that day, I’d never have known about the cancer lurking inside me until it was too late.”
He started treatment, including medications and four months of chemotherapy. Tests showed the cancer, while not shrinking, wasn’t growing. Bradley, Bryony and Nevaeh took a vacation to Miami, Jamaica and New York, where the couple got married in Central Park.
Still, the cancer lurked in the back of his mind. But continued tests showing the cancer remained stable helped Bradley adjust to his new life. He also initiated a lawsuit against his former employer, where he had worked when he was exposed to asbestos.
“Obviously, no amount of money can compensate for my health and I’d pay it all back – and far, far more – if it meant being cancer-free, but at least now I know that my family have a home for when I’m no longer here. It gives us all a sense of security,” said Bradley. “I don’t feel angry about what happened. What would be the point? It wouldn’t change anything.
“Instead, I wake up every day feeling positive. Bryony and I have had another two daughters, Harper, now three, and Piper, five months and I absolutely love being outnumbered by my girls.”
“Whatever happens in the future, this cancer won’t beat me. Yes, in hopefully many years to come, it probably will end up taking my life, but I can’t control that. What I can control is the time I have now and making the most of it.”
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