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Mesothelioma Diagnosis Was a Surprise

CancerWise - March 2009


By Bayan Raji

When Glynn Kron went to his doctor in October 2007 to ask for help to quit smoking, he knew he was doing the right thing. But he had no idea that visit would save his life.

The doctor wanted to look at an X-ray of Kron’s lungs before he would prescribe Chantix® (varenicline), a medication that helps suppress the urge to smoke. To Kron’s surprise, the X-ray revealed a collapsed lung that wouldn’t re-inflate. The lining of his lung was covered in malignant tumors. A biopsy confirmed that Kron, 56 at the time, had mesothelioma.

Trigger often is a mystery

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, while malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, usually caused by long-term exposure to asbestos. People who worked in construction or manufacturing, especially before asbestos was removed from most products in the 1980s, or those who have renovated older houses, are most likely to have been exposed.

Usually, people are unaware they have been exposed to asbestos. Kron is one of those people. He has no clue when he might have been around asbestos. Earlier in life he did some construction work, nothing in demolition, and worked on cars, but he can’t recall being exposed to asbestos.

Determination pays off

Although Kron was surprised, he didn’t panic about the diagnosis.

“I accepted the fact that I had a problem, and I just knew I wanted to fix it,” he says.

An oncologist close to Kron’s Louisiana home proposed treating the mesothelioma with chemotherapy and predicted Kron had only a few years to live. But Kron says he didn’t want to accept this treatment as the only option; he wanted a chance to rid himself of cancer entirely.

“I told the doctor his prediction was unacceptable,” Kron says. “I wanted to go to a cancer treatment center, so he referred me to M. D. Anderson.”

Besides finding other methods of treatment at M. D. Anderson, Kron discovered a different attitude toward the future.

“The doctors at M. D. Anderson didn’t tell me how long I had to live,” Kron says. “They don’t know, and neither do I. That’s how I look at it. We just don’t know.”

Faith, family provides strength

Some people expected him to be depressed by the diagnosis, as if cancer is a life sentence. But he says he found a source of optimism and strength in his faith in God.

“I delved a little deeper into religion,” he says. “I prayed a lot to get my cancer cleared up, and my prayers were answered.”

In addition to his faith, Kron’s sister was a source of support for him. She accompanied him on the long trips from Louisiana to Houston, a gesture he appreciates.

“She helped quite a bit just by being there to support me,” he says.

After treatment, life resumes

Despite the serious diagnosis, Kron was confident of his decision. In January 2008, surgeons at M. D. Anderson removed the tumors and Kron’s left lung. The surgery was followed by five weeks of targeted radiation treatment.

Today, he has been cancer-free for one year.

While recovering from the extensive treatment was painful, Kron couldn’t give up other obligations. He’s the caregiver for his 85-year-old father.

Kron has returned to his job at a petroleum-testing lab and plans to stay on for at least a few more years. Life hasn’t gotten back to “normal” yet, but he did meet the goal he made going into the doctor’s office that fateful day: He quit smoking.

He accepts and moves forward

Although he tires easily and has pain at the surgery site, Kron says he’s learned to live with the situation and gets by just fine.

“You learn to live with things the way they are,” he says. “You accept it and go about your business. You have to find the best care you can, and you have to have faith that everything is going to turn out OK. And you have to give it time.”

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center