Understanding the impact of asbestos:

Anne Gerard's story

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At just over 100 pounds, Anne Gerard was a tiny woman but mighty in spirit. She loved her family, tennis, and animals — especially dogs. Her son, Brett Hyslop, laughs as he says she must have boarded most of the dogs in Victoria, the place she called home, at some point or another. Anne was only 68 when she passed away of cancer related to asbestos and mesothelioma on December 26, 2010.

Unexpected exposure

Anne's diagnosis came as a complete shock to her and her family. What was even more surprising was the cause — her exposure to dental tape, which she worked with almost every day for four years, making moulds for dentures. The tape contained asbestos.

In hindsight, Anne's symptoms began when she was playing tennis and felt unusually tired. But it was actually an annual check-up, including a chest X-ray that showed a tiny spot on one of her lungs. Her diligent doctor pursued the abnormality, which led to her diagnosis.

"It was devastating," says Brett. "To be playing tennis, walking the dogs, going for your annual checkup, feeling great, and then you get the result of the biopsy saying it’s a death sentence."

Next steps

While Anne wasn't given much time, no more than twelve months, it wasn't news her daughter Debra was prepared to taking lying down. Through treatment, surgery, and tears, they fought it as hard as humanly possible.

Though Anne lost her battle with mesothelioma only six short months after her diagnosis, Brett says he had a chance for proper closure, spending the last week of Anne's life learning about long-buried family secrets and poring through photo albums. Brett also says the experience, as painful as it was — and still is — helped bring him and his older sister closer than they'd been in a long time.

Based on Anne's experience and everything she and her family went through in only a very short time, Brett has since established a foundation for families in crisis, to help other families whose lives are suddenly impacted by mesothelioma. It's funding that could also be used to assist family members of those exposed to asbestos, who may have come into contact with asbestos through a loved one. In his case, Brett says he may have been exposed to asbestos fibres because he used to launder his mother's clothes, the ones she wore at the dental office — back to where her exposure was traced.

Anne Gerard