Mesothelioma diagnosis was a matter of time


ADSA president Robert Vojakovic, Helen Clayson and Steve Aiberti. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au d452049
ADSA president Robert Vojakovic, Helen Clayson and Steve Aiberti. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au d452049

The Asbestos Disease Society Australia (ADSA) in Osborne Park launched a handbook on Sunday written by Helen Clayson, a British doctor who has studied the disease for more than 16 years.

December marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the notorious Wittenoom asbestos mine, which claimed the lives of more than 4500 people and counting.

Growing up in Wittenoom, Mr Aiberti said he remembered playing in half a foot of blue asbestos tailings in the school playground.

“I was a mineral sampler, so I worked in the old mine and the old mill, which was covered in dust, you couldn’t breathe,” he said.

“To get away from that I joined the Navy and of course everything was covered with asbestos.”

At the time, all naval boats had to be insulated with 100 per cent pure asbestos because of its durability and resistance to fire.

According to the Asbestos Disease Society Australia (ADSA), WA is in the middle of a mesothelioma diagnosis epidemic with more people diagnosed than any other state per capita.

Mr Aiberti said his father was the first to be diagnosed, then came his mother, uncles, aunties and brothers.

“My brother was diagnosed when he was 52 and he was dead in three months but I was waiting for it to happen, for 30-odd years I got away from it before I was diagnosed in 2015.”

“The diagnosis could have happened at any time so when it actually did happen in 2015, I think I was mentally ready for it whereas other people aren’t.”

Mr Aiberti said the asbestos mesothelioma handbook “has been needed for years” and was an excellent tool for recently diagnosed people.

“My wife likes it because there is a lot in there for carers that opened her eyes, but as I have been gone through nine deaths I have a pretty good idea what happens on that side of things,” he said.

Dr Clayson said the handbook aimed to provide practical and non-threatening information and advice for patients, carers and healthcare professionals.

“When you’re told there is no cure, people often feel abandoned and this book says actually there is a lot you can do, even if there is no cure,” she said.

“It is not a straightforward condition, there is a lot of information people need to know.

“I wanted it to be used for people to understand as much as their nurse or doctor and they can use to it prompt questions and ask for referrals.”

Though he never knew when he would be diagnosed, Mr Aiberti said people who received a diagnosis must remain hopeful.

“The treatment now has improved and is prolonging life – it’s a lot better,” he said.

“There is no good getting upset because it doesn’t help you or your immediate family.

“You get on with life, that’s the main thing I tell them, live everyday and do what you would normally do for as long as you can.”

ADSA will provide the book free to those diagnosed with mesothelioma. Call 1800 646 690.

A DEADLY LEGACY

In 2015, Asbestos Disease Society Australia received:

– 23,684 general inquiries (including email and fax) regarding medico/legal matters, Centrelink, Workers’ Compensation, Comcare, Veterans Affairs entitlement, taxation, testamentary and other confidential issues.

– 3,000 general environmental asbestos inquiries (including email and fax) were received from the community and both private and public instrumentalities. (ADS Advisory staff attended to most of the inquiries).

Confirmed diagnoses of asbestos caused disability among ADS membership in Australia:

-Asbestosis and silicosis – 41

-Lung cancer – 19

-Mesothelioma – 71

-Asbestos pleural disease – 1,002