Asbestos Q and A – How One Man Copes with Diagnosis

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Asbestos has the potential to completely change an individual's life with just one diagnosis. In almost all cases of Mesothelioma, the outlook is terminal – but for many, the time they have left is spent enjoying life to the full.

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Helen Grady, Partner of Industrial Disease talks to Matt Pearce, whose father has been living with a Mesothelioma diagnosis – and explains what it means for their family, and his career:

What can you tell me about your father's diagnosis?

My Dad was originally diagnosed with Mesothelioma - a rare cancer in the lining of the lungs, which is directly linked to exposure to asbestos dust – this was back in October 2014. He has had one round of chemotherapy treatment and has regular fluid drainage at the local hospital, but other than this, he has required very little else in terms of treatment.

He is stoically carrying on and he firmly believes that is the best way to be in the wake of his Mesothelioma diagnosis.

Do you have any idea how he may have come into contact with asbestos?

He has been a self-employed mechanic for as long as I can remember, and I spent many hours at his workshop just behind St David’s railway station in Exeter with him. We suspect that he might have been exposed to small amounts of asbestos dust whilst repairing brake pads on some of the motorcycles in his garage.

He was aware of the problems surrounding asbestos dust particles, and he always took great care to dampen the break-pads down with a water spray. He also remembers the time when he ordered parts and manufacturers stopped using asbestos. The boxes that the parts came in were clearly labelled 'asbestos free'. Unfortunately, this does not seem that long ago.

What can you say about your father's response to his diagnosis?

He is truly inspirational in the way he has managed to carry on with his life and keep up his spirits. I think that with Mesothelioma being linked to past asbestos exposure, it can be very easy for people to become bitter and angry. Dad and I understand that the exposure to asbestos dust most likely occurred many decades ago, however, it is important to realise that asbestos was everywhere and it was often impossible to avoid coming into contact with at all times. Dad has been very strong and has stayed busy – recently he even went on a once in a lifetime, 4 week holiday to New Zealand.

So he has turned it into something positive?

In many ways, yes; I used to watch my father repair and service motorcycles, and as time has gone on, his passion has also turned into mine. I firmly believe that my passion for motorcycle racing and his strong involvement in this has kept him positive and well. I am doing my very best at keeping Dad busy – taking up motorcycle racing and keeping him involved!

How did that come about?

Although I had been around bikes from a young age and got a road bike as soon as I was able, I had only ever been on a race track once before. A very generous race team owner we had come to know through Dad's supplying of parts to the BSB paddock gave me the opportunity to 'have a go' on a race bike – and I loved it!

Shortly afterwards the race team manager said that if I went and got my race licence, he would lend me a bike for some races!

So, with Dad's support, I took the chance. The first bike I rode in a race was a 1000cc Kawasaki ZX10 - that same as I am on now, but a slightly older model. I then bought and raced an old Kawasaki ZX6 600cc bike. In the 5 or so years I have been racing, I have worked my way up through 3, 600cc bikes in many club races and championships. I have now moved onto racing the fully spec'ed 195bhp Kawasaki ZX10 in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 at British Superbikes.

Your Dad seems a very supportive man!

I'm now in my 2nd season at BSB with the help from my number one supporter, mechanic, and mentor; my Dad. I also have a brilliant network of support from friends, family, and some generous fellow racers and teams. Looking forwards in my racing career, we are seeking sponsorship to ride for a team.

At every stage of my racing career Dad has worked as mechanic for me, and has done everything from changing brake pads to complete engine rebuilds! He has selflessly been a massive support all the way through, despite his Mesothelioma. He continues to do so much and we are now competing at the pinnacle of British production bike racing.

If you have received diagnosis of Mesothelioma or any other type of asbestos related disease, you do not have to suffer alone. As Matt and his father have shown – it is important to find the positives in what is otherwise a very distressing time.


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