Ahead of Mesothelioma UK’s annual Patient and Carer Day, which will be going ahead virtually for the first time ever on 2 October 2020, we spoke with Thompsons’ client Pat Coles, who attended the event last year.

How has mesothelioma affected your family?

I lost my husband James to mesothelioma 15 years ago when he was just 60 years old – it was devastating.

He was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s when he worked at a railway manufacturer in the West Midlands for 44 years, he had no idea about the dangers of it at the time. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in late 2004 - ironically, a month after he was made redundant. He died a year later just after Christmas.

We were married 30 years when he passed and had two children together but also two grandchildren who he never met. If he was better protected from the asbestos at his workplace, he probably would have lived long enough to meet them, and should still be with us today.

It’s hard to come to terms with someone you love having cancer, but knowing it could have been prevented was really hard to accept.

Since I retired 10 years ago, I’ve volunteered for Asbestos Support West Midlands. I help them out by answering phones, scanning benefit forms and other clerical bits and bobs. We didn’t have that type of support when James was diagnosed so it feels good to be able to help people in some way.

How did you hear about the Patient and Carer Day?

I was invited by Dave Fisher, a specialist asbestos solicitor at Thompsons, to come along. James died 15 years ago but we’re still welcome at these events which I think is lovely. There is such a sense of community around asbestos. I’ve even made lifelong friendships with people I’ve met in support groups. One friend of mine, who was supported by Dave in their asbestos claim, said he’s become more than just their lawyer and they’ve become friends. The compassion and commitment of the solicitors is second to none and makes such a difference to know your lawyer is genuinely doing their best for your family and not just trying to get through their workload.

How did you benefit from attending the Patient and Carer Day?

Even though we lost James a while ago now, it’s still interesting and comforting to hear what’s being done to help others who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Hearing about all the different clinical trials is fascinating and it gives people a sense of hope they otherwise wouldn’t have. Sadly, a lot of doctors just write you off after you’ve been diagnosed but Mesothelioma UK helps you move forward and offers support you just don’t get at hospitals, not in my experience anyway.

Why would you recommend others who have been affected by mesothelioma to attend the Patient and Carer day?

It’s fantastic to listen to the professionals discuss what’s next in the fight against asbestos and it’s very informative, but it’s also so much more than that. As much as people are sympathetic and try to be understanding about what you’re going or have been through, you don’t know what it’s like to see the person you love and built a life with deteriorate in front of you each day unless you experience it yourself. You’re surrounded by people who have this terrible thing in common and it creates an environment where people who typically don’t open up and share actually feel comfortable to. I’ve watched the expressions in people’s faces change when they see their father, husband, mother, or whoever, talk about their disease in a way you can tell they haven’t before - or at least, not very often. I know James would have really appreciated an event like this if he’d had the chance to attend.

Find out more about Mesothelioma UK’s free Patient and Carer Day here.