Mesothelioma sufferer’s diary highlights care concerns03 April 2009
Ken Sunderland's brave 3 year battle
Ken Sunderland, 66, from Amble died from mesothelioma on March 20, 2009 following a three year battle against the disease.
During his final days he penned a diary outlining his fight in the hope that health professionals, other sufferers and their families could learn from his experience.
Diary published to help other asbestos victims
Now his wife Pam and daughters, Joanne and Shirley, have published his diary so it can help others.
Joanne said: “Dad never gave up his fight to find alternative treatments for mesothelioma. He felt strongly that patients should have access to information about medical trials and should be given the opportunity to choose if they wanted to take part.
“He felt passionately that there should be a better care system in place for terminal cancer patients. He would be proud to know that his diary is now out there to help others going through the same battle he fought.”
Call for a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD)
In Ken’s diary he calls for a National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD) to be created for mesothelioma victims to find out more information about the disease and options available to patients.
He asks the NHS to take a holistic approach when dealing with patients and to deliver care that takes into account the patient’s individual needs.
He also offered advice to other mesothelioma patients. He says: “Get all the facts together about where and when you might have come in to contact with asbestos. Decide how involved you want to be in your ongoing care and medication decisions and communicate this to the people delivering your care. Think about how you feel about the illness now, the options you’ve been presented with, and what you want to do about it now.”
Exposed to asbestos while working
Ken was exposed to asbestos while working as an apprentice draughtsman and engineer for Thermotank in Jarrow from 1959.
During that time he visited many shipbuilding and repair yards in the UK and while he never directly handled asbestos his work coincided with asbestos insulation being used to fit out ships.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2006 three months after complaining to his doctor about breathlessness. The compensation claim against his former employers was successfully concluded in 2007 by Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle.
During his illness he underwent chemotherapy, took part in drugs trials, explored a new chemotherapy technique and underwent chemoembolization in Frankfurt.
His diary sets out how he scoured the internet to find out more about available treatments and records his concerns about the standard of care he received in hospital.
Read extracts of Ken's Diary
Extracts of his diary are to be published on Thompsons Solicitors' website and by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund. The family are also sending it to the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub Committee.
Ian McFall head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said: “Ken’s experience raises questions about the consistency of standards of NHS treatment for mesothelioma sufferers. He was strong minded, said what he meant and didn't tolerate mediocrity. Most of all, he cared deeply about his family and wanted to help others. Hopefully some good will come from the publication of his diary.”
Chris Knighton founder of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund said: “Ken was a strong supporter of our charity and will be missed. His diaries mirror what many mesothelioma sufferers and their families tell us and it supports some of the concerns we have raised with parliament over the years.
“We have been campaigning for the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases which we hope will address many of Ken’s points once it is up and running.”
Ken's story was also published by the Mirror.
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