A grandmother of six is appealing to former colleagues for help as she has just weeks left to live following a diagnosis of mesothelioma – the fatal asbestos cancer.

Barbara Young (née Wilson), 69, believes she was just 15 years-old when she was exposed to asbestos in her first job as a shop assistant at a Littlewoods store in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire in 1966.

Mrs Young said: “I don’t remember seeing asbestos pipes around the store, but I was only 15 and wasn’t really paying attention. I do, however, distinctly recall seeing asbestos ceiling tiles and it was always very dusty, especially in the storeroom after maintenance work.

“I remember when B&M Bargains took over the site in 2013, the first floor was out of bounds because of the asbestos peeling away from the walls and ceilings.”

She is now looking for anyone who’s worked at the Littlewoods store on Marina Walk in Ellesmere Port to come forward and help support her claims, especially staff who worked there at around the same time as her in the 1960s.

woman sat amongst trees
Barbara Young, our mesothelioma client

Mrs Young first knew there was something wrong in 2019 when she had difficulty breathing after accidentally hitting her side in the kitchen. At first, she was prescribed antibiotics for a suspected chest infection, but various scans and tests later confirmed she had mesothelioma.

Since her diagnosis, Mrs Young has undergone various treatments to ease her symptoms and increase her life expectancy, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but the cancer has now spread to near her heart. Her doctors said she now has weeks to live and may not make it to her 70th birthday later this month.

Before her diagnosis, Mrs Young was a fit and active woman and she and her husband of nearly 40 years enjoyed energetic holidays, such as climbing the 1,200 steps of Sri Lankan ancient rock fortress Sigiriya, African safari treks and scaling the heights of the Australian Blue Mountains. Once her condition worsened, her husband took early retirement as a builder to help care for her.

Mrs Young added: “I’m lucky to have such a supportive family. My two sons live nearby, but my daughter is in Australia and, with the current coronavirus travel restrictions, is having trouble to come and see me.

“It’s looking likely that we won’t get what we need while I’m still here, but I’m hoping to be accepted for clinical trials for a therapy in London which has had successful trials in New York. I won’t let it beat me. This cancer is going to take me away from family, possibly before I even see my daughter again, and I want to do all I can to hold those responsible to account.”

The Young family is being supported by Thompsons' mesothelioma solicitors, who paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972. As a point of principle, Thompsons only represents workers and their families who have developed asbestos diseases and never acts for employers or insurance companies. It is also one of a handful of specialist firms in the UK to be a member of the Mesothelioma UK Legal Panel in recognition of its expertise.

Mesothelioma is a fatal form of asbestos-related cancer that can take decades to develop from the smallest level of exposure to asbestos. While men are typically considered to be more at-risk of developing the disease, as exposure often occurred in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and construction, this toxic substance has left a legacy for women as well, not just as grieving widows, sisters, daughters and friends – but also as victims of asbestos-related disease.

woman looking at camera

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, of the 2,446 mesothelioma deaths recorded in Great Britain in 2018, 396 were women. This equates to approximately one in every six cases, and is consistent with previous years.

Louise Larkin, of Thompsons Solicitors, who is supporting the family, said: “Barbara’s story is absolutely heart breaking and, tragically, not uncommon. Despite being banned more than 20 years ago in the UK, asbestos is still devastating families even decades after they were last exposed.

“It’s a common belief that asbestos affects just elderly men, but this is far from true. We’ve seen many cases where women have been exposed to asbestos either as children, or through their husband’s work clothes, or in cases like Barbara, where they have been directly exposed in their workplace.

“If there is anyone who has ever worked at the Littlewoods store on Marina Walk in Ellesmere Port who can confirm the presence of asbestos at the time Barbara was there, please come forward as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information should contact Louise Larkin at Thompsons Solicitors on 0151 224 1644 or email louiselarkin@thompsons.law.co.uk.